The Golden Hour of Running

Morning Runner

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“I run in the morning, before my brain tells me not to.” – anonymous

I am a morning person and, therefore, running comes easier to me in the morning. I want to clarify that I’m not one of those extra happy people in the morning, who just can’t wait to say hello to the world. I’ve actually been a cranky morning person my whole life – just ask my parents. And, like most people, I do find it hard to get out of bed on some mornings. But if there’s one thing that makes me happy, or at least not grumpy, in the morning, it’s knowing that my morning run is just minutes away. I’m not saying that running in the morning is right for everyone, but it works for me – for a number of reasons:

Fewer Distractions – I get up very early, sometimes before sunrise, just so I can make it out and back before my children and husband wake up. This is my “golden hour”. I find that I’m less distracted with family and house things in the morning, which means I’m more likely to stick to my running schedule. Getting my run out of the way first thing in the AM also means I’m less likely to talk myself out of running or make an excuse not to run.

Less Noise – If I can get out the door by 6:15 AM, this usually means I’m rewarded with a near barren road – with few cars and even fewer people. I also tend to avoid the noisy construction or lawn maintenance workers early in the morning, which means more peace and quiet – just what I want on my run!

Feel energized – Running in the morning makes me feel empowered for the rest of the day. It really produces a natural energy, a natural motivation, and even a natural mood booster. When I run in the morning, I feel like I can accomplish anything.

No matter what time of day you run, the key to make it convenient so that you’re more likely to stick with your workouts.

When is your “golden hour” for running or working out?

Happy running!

A Runner Is Born…

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As some of you know, I’ve been a runner for more than 20 years. For someone who is only in her 30s, that’s a pretty long time to be a runner. Colleagues, friends, family members, and even bloggers have asked me why and how I started running. Good question. Every runner has a story about how and why he/she started running – and this, my friends, is mine….

When I was a Freshman in high school, I played on the girls fast-pitch softball team. I was a pitcher, and a pretty good one too. At the beginning of the season, I was told that I would be moved up to varsity by the end of the year. At that point, I decided softball would be my life. Little did I know that my dream of becoming a major league women’s softball star would become derailed just as quickly as I could throw a pitch.

“You can swim…or you can run”

A few weeks after the start of the season, my throat began to hurt and I started running a high fever. My throat began to swell, so much that it was hard to swallow, and sometimes, even breath. I was extremely tired and felt weak all over. After a trip to the doctor, I learned that I had mononucleosis, the kissing disease, as it was so lovingly called in my school (I swear I contracted it from the softball water bottles!) I was told by the doctor that I could not play softball or any contact sports for the rest of the year because of the risk they posed to my enlarged spleen. Fearing I would gain weight and be out of shape for next softball season, I asked the doctor what I could do to stay in shape. He replied, “You can swim…or you can run.”

When Life Hands You Lemons…

Not being much of a swimmer, I contemplated running. I never really gave it much thought before that day. However, I always ran faster and farther than the other girls on my softball team during our mile warm-up lap around the school. In the next few days, I was approached by the girls’ track coach, who just happened to be the former coach of the national women’s cross country team. He had heard about my softball situation and suggested I join the track team (apparently, he had seen me run during softball practice). So, running it was.

Just like softball a few months before, running quickly became my life. For four years, I ran on the track and cross country teams. During this time, I learned a great deal about running. My coach and the seasoned runners on the team taught me about warm ups, cool downs, running form, pacing, interval running, proper stretching….and about racing.

Convincing Myself…

Despite this new-found love for running, I didn’t call myself a runner nor did I think I was any good at it. Although others may have seen me as a runner, I was constantly trying to prove (to myself) that I was a runner. Throughout college, I did strenuous running drills, because I thought that’s what real runners did. I entered road races, because I thought that’s what real runners did. I didn’t win the races, but often finished in the middle of the pack or even at the end. Yet somehow, just being involved in racing made me qualify as a runner, or so I thought.

On Being a Runner…

Fast-forward 20 years. After many years of running and many races under my belt, I now know that it’s not winning or even racing that makes you a runner. It’s about the commitment to running and the enjoyment and benefit you receive from running. But most of all, it’s about the desire to run.

If I were asked today, how do you know you’re a runner? I would reply – You will know when you’re a runner because you will run even when there is no race, no finish line, and no fans.

Yes, I am definitely a runner.

As I said, everyone has a story about how he/she starting running, biking, doing yoga, etc. So, what’s your story?

A Swim, Bike, Run Weekend

My husband Scott did the Olympic distance Chicago Triathlon this morning. But before I get to that, let me rewind a bit. We headed downtown early yesterday to check into the hotel and check out the Tri-expo. I headed straight to the Larabar booth to pick up a bunch of swag…

I love these bars and they came in so handy today while waiting for Scott to finish. The kids and I didn’t get to eat lunch so it was Larabar to the rescue! After the expo we walked around for a bit in downtown Chicago. I had heard the Eiffel Tower was making an appearance at Macy’s on State so I just had to stop in to see it for myself…

The girls at the Lancome counter probably thought I was crazy – or at least a tourist. I am neither, thank you.

After dinner at Maggiano’s Little Italy, we attempted to go to bed at a reasonable hour, considering Scott needed to be up at 3:45 AM in order to get his bike to the transition area. But on our way back to the hotel, we heard the familiar sounds of Chicago’s Summer Dance Festival – Puerto Rican salsa music, definitely one of our favorites. Since the festival was literally right across the street from our hotel, we decided to stop for a few minutes – it was a beautiful night to listen and dance to music under the stars!! On nights like those, I really miss living in the city.

We ended up not falling asleep until after midnight, then both woke up at 3 AM and couldn’t go back to sleep. Ugh!!!. Not fun for either of us.

In spite of our unintended lack of sleep, Scott was out the door on time. I even managed to get the kids up, ready, and out the door in time to see Scott shove off for the swimming portion which started promptly at 7:52 AM. The rest of the morning was spent walking around the race area and tracking Scott on his bike and run portions. Runkeeper is very cool in the iPhone – when it works – and really helped me pinpoint Scott in the last 20-30 minutes of the race. Toward the last stretch, I was able to see exactly where he was on the course. So, when he came into view, Mr. C and I ran out to jog with him for a minute – Mr. C was so excited to run with his Dad! I was so happy and proud of Scott that I almost cried!

It really amazes me that Scott trained for the last 6-7 months and accomplished a full swim, bike, and run – something I have no interest in doing at this point in my life. He and the other triathletes are truly inspirational. They trained so hard and you could see the deep emotion in their faces as they ran along the last stretch of the race – excitement, exhaustion, determination, pride – you name it, every emotion was there. Scott ended up finishing in about 3.5 hours – that is amazing to me, especially considering it’s his first race AND he was racing in 90+ temperatures! I’m actually surprised we didn’t see more runners pass out from the heat, but I’ll consider that a blessing. By the way, if you want to know how many calories he burned for his 3.5 hour workout – that magic number would be 3,500 calories! Yes, he definitely deserved that huge piece of chocolate cake tonight.

Congratulations to Scott and Ryan (Scott’s brother who also raced) for a fantastic triathlon today! Just let me know when we’re headed to St. Croix for the next one! 🙂

Headed to the Chicago Triathlon

This morning, I went out for a fast 5-mile run, which was fantastic! It’s been really cool the last few mornings – around 60 degrees with no humidity. Yeah, Fall is coming! About halfway through my run, I noticed one of those speed monitors sitting in the road up ahead. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen one while running, but it’s the first time I saw one and had my iPhone with me to take a photo! As you can see, I was running approx. 7 miles per hour, which is roughly 8.5 minute miles – not bad!

On another note, I want to send a huge thank you to Life After Bagels – I was the winner of her Terra Chips giveaway! Yesterday, I came home from work to find a big box waiting for me. Ooooh, who says good things come in small packages 🙂 I tore open the box to find 4 large bags of Terra chips…

As well as chip clips – always handy -, a recipe book, and a martini serving bowl for the chips – how clever!

Terra chips are super yummy and they DO really taste like veggies. The sweet potato ones are my favorite but I’m dying to try the Mexican and the Mediterranean flavors.

I may be out of pocket on Saturday and at least part of Sunday. Scott is doing the Chicago Triathlon on Sunday so we’re heading downtown tomorrow to check into our hotel and do “race stuff”. I might be doing some live tweeting from the event on Sunday -so stay tuned!

FYI – if you’re wondering why I’m not doing the triathlon, it’s because I do not swim or bike – I run and that is what I do best. But I give HUGE amounts of credit for people who can do all three back to back! Good luck to all of the Chicago Triathletes!

What Inspires You To Run?

It’s hard NOT to be inspired or motivated to run when you have a view like this every morning. I’m very fortunate indeed.

What inspires or motivates you to keep running, day after day?

Have Runner's Knee? Move Your Hips!

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Most runners will experience knee pain at some point. Whether it’s new shoes, too much pounding the pavement, or a pronating stride, knee pain is a little bother that sneaks up on runners and can turn into a big problem over time. But I have good news to share!

A new study presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine shows that knee pain may reduced by strengthening the hips. In the pilot study, Indiana University researchers tested 9 female runners who had knee pain scored at 7, on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the worst. For 6 weeks, the female runners took part in hip strengthening exercises, including single leg squats and exercises using resistance tubes. By the end of the 6 weeks, all runners reported knee pain at 2 or lower. Researchers believe that increased hip strength may help align your body while your running, which helps take strain off the knee and decrease the residual pain.

This study may be too small and too preliminary to really be significant, but it gives hope to runners everywhere. So if you’re a runner or any endurance athlete who is experiencing pain behind the kneecap, try adding a few squats and other hip strengthening exercises to your routine. It’s worth a shot!

Gotta Get To The Sea

Last night, Scott and I went with another couple to see Jack Johnson. The concert was awesome  – yeah, like you couldn’t tell from my Tweets! He played at least 25 songs including an surprising rendition of Steve Miller’s The Joker – very cool! He also played several songs from his new CD – To The Sea. Again – awesome! Obviously, the photo above was taken at the concert. JJ looks so big on screen, but we were really waaaay back on the lawn. Jack looked like a green spec most of the time. I didn’t mind that much though as long as I could hear him sing. What I did mind was all of the smoking – tobacco and other things. I probably had a pretty good contact buzz going considering I was engulfed in a fog for pretty much the whole concert. But there was really no way of getting away from it. The worst thing was that there were little kids there – from babies to 12-year olds. So glad I decided to leave Mr. C and Ms. M home, although Mr. C would have loved the concert. He likes JJ just like his mom!

What impresses me about Jack, aside from his awesome songwriting and voice, is that he can put on a great concert without a lot of fanfare – it’s just Jack and his music and that’s all I need.

After returning home at 1 AM, I was not about to get up super early to run. I ended up getting out the door around 9 AM this morning. It was a gorgeous morning – about 65 degrees and sunny! I ended up doing 6.5 miles with 8 min 20 second miles. Not bad for getting about 6 hours of sleep! Could have been the leftover contact buzz 🙂

As you can see, I was sporting my brand new Lucy running skirt! I was a little apprehensive about wearing a running skirt at first. When I first looked at it, it looked VERY short. But then when I held it up to my regular running shorts, it was the same length! Oh, how our minds can play tricks on us. I’m going to give a full review of the skirt on on Wednesday. However, I will say that this skirt is a keeper. I felt comfortable and very chic at the same time -always a plus when I’m running!

After the run, we had more guests over for swimming and bbq-ing for lunch. Then, it was on to Ravinia, and outdoor lawn concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. We were treated to a fantastic all-French night of music, including Ravel’s Boléro – amazing!!! If you think you don’t know this piece of work, listen to it on YouTube. Most people will recognize it immediately. It’s sounds a tad like Memories from Cats, although I’m sure Ravel wouldn’t appreciate that comparison.

Off to bed now, have a great night all.

No, That's Not a Wild Animal On My Head

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This morning I woke up extra early for my run to find it sprinkling outside. After about 30 minutes, it seemed to be clearing up so I laced up and headed outside. About 3 minutes into my run, it started to downpour. And in those 5 minutes (3 minutes out and 2 minutes back – since I was sprinting) I became a huge wet mess. I’m sure with my thick wavy hair, it must have looked like a complete mess!

I normally like running in the rain, but not in a downpour. It’s really hard to see with all of the rain in your face. So, I hopped on the treadmill for about a mile, then went back outside to test Mother Nature. Thankfully, it had completely stopped raining. I was completely soaked, but I managed to finish the last 4 miles of my 5 mile run. On my cool down, I walked by a woman from the neighborhood who walks every morning. She looked at my hair and just smiled – I’m assuming she understood my rain episode. No, that’s not a drowned animal on my head.

That’s me, muddy legs and all! I actually don’t look that muddy in the photo, but I had mud all over the front and back of my legs. I didn’t even realize I was that dirty until mud started dripping off of my legs on the floor. No rain in store until late Sunday night – yeah!

On another note, I realized about 1:30 PM that I had already consumed 1,200 calories for the day -OMG! I don’t count calories every day, but today I was making a mental calorie note and realized my huge intake. Between the Starbucks’ Frap, the potatoes and chocolate pastry from lunch – I nearly maxed out – ugh! I didn’t eat any thing else until I arrived home around 6:30. Ok, I may or may not have had a mini-Twix, but those are only like 45 calories 🙂

Everyone has a bad day when it comes to eating and calories. Today, was definitely a bad day. But really, how can any day be bad with a Starbucks in hand?

Eat, Drink, And Run

A woman at my office is a marathon runner and a triathlete. She often talks about the energy bars and gels she eats during her workouts and her races. This got me thinking about my eating habits while running.

I’m torn on this issue. As a personal trainer, it is part of my job to address the nutritional needs of clients and/or people I administer advice to. Yet, as a runner, I know what my body needs and doesn’t need. I have never been the type of runner who needs to eat before a run or even during a run. The thought of eating during a run actually makes me a little nauseous – anyone else? I think my no eating while running mindset is spurred by the idea that I’m not really a competitive runner anymore. Although I still run 5K’s and 10K’s, I still don’t feel the need to eat during the runs.

Putting my personal trainer hat back on – here’s my take on eating and running. Obviously, if you’re a competitive runner, eating for performance is key. But for new or noncompetitive runners, there are just a few basic eat and run principles to consider:

Principles of Eating and Running

Before Your Run:  If you’re a morning runner, who’s out the door before breakfast, you may want to grab a little nourishment before you’re workout. Don’t eat too much or you’ll risk cramping or even nausea. Have a 100-150 calorie snack that has some form of carbohydrates, such as a ½ cup of oatmeal, a small banana, or half a power bar. Drinking a few ounces of water prior to running is also a good idea. Resist gulping or else you may feel waterlogged even before you start your run. For afternoon or evening runners, avoid eating a heavy meal prior to running. Schedule your run in between lunch and dinner, or 1-2 hours after dinner. Remember, there are plenty of runners who CAN run on an empty stomach with no problem (yours truly included), but eating a little something beforehand is also fine.

During Your Run – The rule of thumb is – runners really do not need to eat during a run unless they run 60 minutes or more. Our bodies have stored glycogen (our energy source) that can help us through the sub-hour runs. If you plan a run that is 1+ hours, take an energy gel or a small box of raisins for refueling along the way. For long runs, staying hydrated is also key so remember to drink your water – at least a few sips every 15 minutes!

After Your Run – After a long/hard run, aim to eat within 30-45 minutes of ending your workout. This will help prevent your blood sugar levels from dipping too low. Aim for 200-400 calories that includes protein and carbs. My post-run snacks are often Greek yogurt, protein bar, peanut butter, Kashi cereal, etc., Also, drink plenty of water after your run and throughout the day to rehydrate!

Eat, drink, and run well.

Should You Run or Walk?

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Yesterday, I woke up early for my normal Tuesday run. Blah – it was raining! And it wasn’t even that light, sprinkly rain, it was a hard, steady rain. I usually don’t have a problem with running in very light rain, especially if it’s warm outside. But a hard rain leaves me feeling like a drowned rat – hence, I try to avoid it. As a result, I post-poned my run for Wednesday, which is my normal day off. But, instead of just going back to bed (I was fully dressed in my running gear), I went downstairs to walk on the treadmill. I emphasize WALK since I knew I was trading my Tuesday running day for Wednesday. Besides, running on the treadmill in the summer just…well, sucks!

As I was walking, I got to thinking about how some people are walkers, while others are runners. Walking is a very low-intensity, low impact sport that doesn’t require much practice. On the contrary, running is a high-intensity, high-impact exercise that often requires consistent training. Both exercises are very good for you, especially for cardiovascular benefits. So, why would a person – like me – choose to walk over running when walking just seems so much easier?

For many people, including yours truly, whether to walk or run really comes down to time and calories. Running is one of the fastest and most efficient ways for you to burn calories and lose weight. However, there has been some debate about this in recent years – let’s take a look…

Old School Rules: For decades, the old school of thought was that a person would burn the same amount of calories in one mile, whether that person walked or ran the distance. It would just take the runner half the time to burn those calories.

New School Rules: New research indicates that running actually does burn more calories per mile than walking. In 2004, researchers from Syracuse University found that both women and men burned 2x as many calories when they ran a mile compared with when they walked the same distance. But why? Well, unlike walking, running produces a more intense impact on our bodies. When running, we are completely airborne in between strides. The impact of our foot hitting the ground puts a tremendous amount of force on our feet and our legs. The greater force we place on our bodies the more calories we need to expend to absorb the force.

Exception to the Rules: Research also noted that higher intensity walking (such as race walking at speeds of 5.0 mph or higher) actually burned the same amount of calories as running. But, unless you’re walking at very high speeds, it appears that running burns twice the amount of calories in half the time.

Run or Walk?

If you’re on the fence about whether to walk or run, consider your goals and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I running/walking for weight loss?
  • How much time can I dedicate to exercise?

Why Run? If you’re pressed for time or want to maximize calorie burning, then give running a try. After all, if you only have 30 minutes a day to spare for exercise, 30 minutes of running will burn significantly more calories than 30 minutes of walking, which can mean losing weight faster.

Why Walk? If you’re not into high-intensity exercise and time isn’t an issue, then walking may be a better choice for you. Keep in mind that walking can still help you lose weight slowly and it is a great, low impact way to improve or maintain your cardiovascular fitness.

Whether you choose to walk or run, the most important thing is to find an exercise that you like and that you will do consistently each week.

(Please note: this has been adapted from my Bookieboo post from earlier this year!)