3 Reasons You Should Add Hills to Your Training

3 Reasons to Add Hills to Your Workouts

If you live anywhere except the Midwest, you probably encounter hills on your average daily run (at least small rollers!). Most of us are not too fond of the hills, especially during races. But, what if I told you those same hills could actually make you a faster runner? There are several reasons that hills can make you speedier. Read on to find out!

THE PHYSICS OF HILLS AND SPEED

Running uphill requires greater force than running on level ground or downhill (you encounter much more resistance going up hill). More force= more strength and speed. Think back to the last time you ran up a decent hill–you had to pick up your legs and charge it. Your whole body probably felt like it was getting a good workout, because it was!

HILLS CAN HELP YOUR STRIDE

Running uphill can actually help your running form because it makes you lift your knees up higher. It’s a great way to work on achieving optimal stride length. When your run downhill, you have a faster turnover–this will definitely help make you more efficient in your next race!

RUNNING HILLS HELPS BUILD UP YOUR RUNNING CAPACITY

Let’s face it–running uphill is hard! It’s this same hard effort that helps you build up your aerobic capacity. Regularly running hills helps your body use oxygen more efficiently, so it takes less oxygen for a hard effort. You get the drift– running hard starts to “feel” easier. This will come in handy at the finish of your next race or long run!

HOW TO ADD HILLS TO YOUR TRAINING PLAN

Aside from choosing a route with hills, there are a few other ways you can add them to your training regimen. One workout (which is great for breaking up the monotony of the treadmill!) is to do a pyramid workout. Each interval (few minutes), raise the incline one notch, hit a peak, and then go back down.

While this will help with the uphill portion, you can’t really go downhill on a treadmill–great news if you have knee problems! :-) Another way to incorporate hills is to run a few warm up miles and then find a good hill to use for repeats. Run up the hill and then jog back down. Start with one or two repetitions and build up each week. Ideally the hill will have a 10-15% grade– you don’t want it to be too steep!

Do you incorporate hills into your workout schedule? What’s your favorite hill workout? 

 

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Do You Want to Build a Snowman? ~ 30 Something Father Figure

For once in my life, I’m going to keep a piece of writing brief. I just finished a long email to our builder about some remaining items regarding our kitchen renovation, and I don’t have much left in the tank now that it’s almost midnight.  Lucky for me, Wednesday was my only Boston day of the week.

It started off by missing the bus, but the train I ended up taking probably got in earlier anyway. A quick check of Google maps traffic revealed a lot of dark red in the greater Boston area.

Nyes Neck

Cape Cod: Where You Can Walk On Water

While I was able to play racquetball on Friday, I missed Monday due to work on the kitchen project. The weekend featured weather that was warm enough to get outside with the kids and build a huge snowman.  Finally the snow was sticky enough to build with.

The next day the temperature dropped and eventually we got to below zero this week… the snowman isn’t going anywhere until May. My kids were very excited about that prospect! 

Olaf the Snowman

The Newest Member of Our Family…He’s Here to Stay!

My wife and I have been in a rut in terms of exercise, although she was finally able to get a few runs in this week. I am dividing my time between two houses, dog-sitting for my parents whose black lab is too old for a kennel– we got him when I was a senior in high school. I guess that officially makes me old :-). Between that and the kitchen renovation and the arctic weather, the deck has been stacked against me. So with that, I present my goals for the next 5-6 days:

play racquetball; do lunges; get back to the ab DVD with wifey!

If I can do all of those things by my next post, I’ll be satisfied.  Then next week’s goal will be to make concrete plans for some ski trips. I don’t drink much, I don’t do drugs, and I don’t take any medication… but if I don’t go skiing soon, I’m going to have to re-write that entire last sentence.  At least there’s plenty of snow left!!

 

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Best Running Apps 2015

Best Running Apps 2015

It’s that time again–time to review the best running apps out there. I have done a 2012 and  2013 and 2014 edition, but it seems I missed a few years! :-) Here we go for 2015!

Strava (FREE with optional premium version, available for iPhone and Android)– If you like to run and ride, Strava is a great app to use. I really like the way that you can see your workouts for the month (in calendar format), color-coded for races, workouts, and long runs. Strava also has a social community, so you can challenge other runners and riders. You can connect with friends on Strava via your social media networks. Once you are “friends,” you can see their workouts in your activity feed and give them props for their training!

Map My Run (FREE with optional premium version, available for iPhone and Android)– Map My Run was purchased by Under Armour a while ago, and it’s another great tool for mapping routes for running, walking, and cycling. My favorite aspect of this app is the ability to map routes in your neighborhood or wherever you’re planning to run. The maps are just like Google maps and you can easily trace a route that will be saved to your profile– complete with mile markers. Like Strava, there is also a social community component. You can follow friends workouts, and likewise, they can see your training.

Nike Plus (FREE, available for iPhone and Android)– This app allows you to use GPS to track distance and pace. You can also keep tabs on calories burned and Nike Fuel. The app integrates with social media, and you can post to Facebook when you start a run. Your friends can then “like” your post to send you cheers along the way! In my opinion, the best feature of this app is the personalized coaching you can receive–this includes audio cues for your workouts. There is also a photo component to share snapshots of your workouts and challenges to compete against friends and other runners.

Couch-to-5k ($1.99, available for iPhone and Android)– I am a HUGE fan of this beginner running program, and the app that goes along with it is very helpful for those starting a running program or former runners looking to get back into shape. This app will guide you through the whole Couch-to-5k program, giving you audio cues for your walk/run intervals. If you opt for the Couch-to-5k program, I would definitely recommend purchasing this app!

Runkeeper (FREE, available for iPhone and Android)– This app is fairly simple, lacking some of the bells and whistles you find in some of the other apps. You can track distance, pace, calories, and see them graphically displayed before and after your run. You can also choose to have audio alerts for mileage and pace during your run.

Zombies, Run! ($3.99, available for iPhone and Android)– Zombies, Run! is a fun way to pass the time during your run. You are chased by zombies in over 160 different missions– creating an instant interval workout! You can run along with your own music, and it’s a great option for beating boredom on the treadmill!

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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a Very Real Thing!

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This has been a LOOOOONG winter, or maybe just February in particular. While we have not been hammered quite as badly here on Cape Cod (compared to the snow in Boston), my seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is in full effect. I am a true New Englander, and I LOVE the seasons (including winter). That being said, I’m officially over this winter and the massive amounts of snow/ice/cold we have endured.

Unfortunately there is no end in sight. I actually prefer not to listen to the weather report any more, lest I hear the dreaded four letter word. Like every other winter– usually in January and February–I find myself feeling kind of depressed. This year we haven’t had much sunshine due to all of the snow, and it’s really wreaking havoc on my mood! Can I get an AMEN?!

Runs have been on the treadmill and definitely not as plentiful as they should be. I feel like a bear in hibernation– stuffing myself and lying around, waiting for spring! The good news is that daily savings time is 13 days a way (not that I’m counting or anything!). I think that the extra hour of daylight is going to be huge for those of us surviving winter 2015 in New England.

Enough wallowing in self-pity though, I’m looking forward to longer days, sunshine, and MUCH more running outside. Yesterday I took a good hard look at my diet for the past month or so and decided to tighten it up–too much eating while stuck inside. I hit the gym and chose a training plan for the Newport 10 Miler.

For the next month or so, I will be increasing mileage and getting back into my regular running routine. I know that mentally it’s the best possible thing I can do for myself. Cutting out the winter emotional eating should help too! Onward to spring! :-)

How do YOU beat the winter blues? 

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Pace Groups ~ Should You Use One?

Pace Groups

If you have participated in a half marathon or marathon before, you may have seen or heard of pace groups. If you are curious about pace groups and how they work, here’s what you need to know:

How Pace Groups Work

Pace groups are often offered as a benefit to runners who compete in half marathons or marathons. If you are interested in using a pace group, first check the information packet you receive or the race website, to make sure that the race offers pacing groups.

Often times, you will be instructed to check in at the race expo (at the pacer table) to sign up for your pacing groups. Other times you will simply show up race morning and meet up with the pacer before the start of the race. The pacer will run carrying a sign or a balloon, so that they can be seen by all members of the pace group.

Typical Pace Groups

For the half marathon, typical pace groups might be 1:30. 1:45, 2:00, 2:15, and 2:30. At larger races, you may find pace groups broken down even further– in 5 or 10 minute increments between 1:30 and 2:30. For the marathon, typical pace groups cover anticipated race finish times of 3:00 all of the way up to 5:30 hours.

Once again, the larger the race, the larger the number of pace groups. For example, the Chicago Marathon has 22 different pace groups from 3:00 finish time up to 5:45. There are about 100 pacers!

Benefits of Pace Group

There are obviously benefits to using a pace group. If you have a solid pacer, it can help you from going out too fast during your half or full marathon. This can be particularly helpful if it’s your first half or full marathon. Another benefit to using a pace group is that you will be running with a team of runners hoping to meet the same time goal. Having a group to support you can be tremendously helpful towards the end of a race!

Running with a pacer can also take the pressure off and prevent you from obsessing over the splits on your Garmin! By going with the group,  you know you will come within about 2 minutes of your goal time.

Disadvantages of Using a Pace Group

Why might you not want to use a pace group? Some pacers are better than others. If you have a less experienced pacer, he/she may not run as accurate splits as a more experienced pace setter. Additionally, you have no guarantee that your pacer will be running even splits. He/she may start too fast and finish slower or vice a versa.

Following a pace group can also be challenging if the race is really crowded. Your pacer may have a hard time running consistent paces, and it may be hard to keep your pacer in sight if the group is really large.

In the end, you have to make the best choice for yourself. Consider the pros and cons, and your own individual situation. If you are shooting for a PR and want some extra motivation, go for it! However, if your goal is just to finish the distance, it may not be the best choice for you.

Have you used a pace group for a half or full marathon?

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The Struggle is Real in Boston ~ 30 Something Father Figure

Boston in Winter

The struggle is real in Boston and southern New England in general!  You’ll never catch me complaining about too much snow– that’s like a twenty-something in NYC complaining that a bar has too many attractive single people. However, the weather truly has affected life in this neck of the woods lately… most notably in throwing off my blogging schedule ;-).

On Tuesday I had to go to a client’s office in Somerville, a city just northwest of Boston. There’s no easy way to reach this office by public transportation, plus the local transit system has been a mess lately due to snow on the train tracks and old equipment.

I figured my best option was to drive – and it may well have been – but I spent more time in the car that day than I did at the office! It took me 3 hours and 45 minutes to get home from Boston, when normally it should be less than an hour and a half.

While my racquetball buddy is on vacation in Belize, and the frigid temps and mounds of snow have kept my mountain bike in the garage, I’ve had to take my wife’s advice on how to find ways to exercise. I’ve been able to do plenty of shoveling, and the kids and I have been chasing each other through the fox & geese trails we’ve blazed in the back yard.

Boys on Roof Winter 2015

As of now I’m planning to take my 4-year-old skiing on Friday, but if it’s in the single digits I think we’re better off staying home. When you’re trying to introduce your little ones to skiing, the last thing you want for them is a miserable experience – an outcome that’s likely if they’re up on the mountain in below freezing temps.

The whole point is to teach them how much fun the skiing lifestyle is. If it means that more time is spent sledding and building snowmen at the base, than on the actual ski slopes, so be it. Skiing is a culture, and I want my kids to grow up with it as a part of their lives.

 How’s the weather in your neck of the woods? 

 

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Cross-Training in the Snow

As we dig out from yet another snow storm, it’s getting pretty discouraging trying to run around here! Snow drifts are high, temps are frigid, and it’s crazy windy (we live right near the water). I haven’t been running outside mainly because I am worried about sharing the road with drivers who are navigating narrow streets, slippery conditions, and may or may not be distracted looking at all of the snow!

Cross Training in the Snow

The good thing is that (aside from running on the treadmill), there are other activities that you can do in this crazy weather to get some fresh air, stay sane, AND get in a good workout. Here are some options for cross-training in the snow:

  • Snow shoveling: Enough said. We have had SO much snow in the last 30 days–there is no shortage of snow shoveling to be done.
  • Sledding: You can have a blast flying down the hill, and then get your workout hiking back uphill (bonus points for hauling your kids up too!).
  • Cross Country Skiing: Cross country skiing is an AWESOME cardio workout. In fact, it probably ranks as one of the best aerobic workouts you can do. I actually prefer cross-country skiing to downhill, because I stay a lot warmer! It’s a great way to feel like you’re trail or cross-country running, even when it’s too snowy and temps are really low.
  • Snow Shoeing: Like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing is a great way to get in a solid cardio workout. If you get smaller snow shoes, you can really mimic the running gait.
  • Building a snow fort: Or snowman, tunnel, or whatever snow structure suits your fancy. Playing with (or without) the kids is a great way to try to enjoy the snow and stay warm outside. Walking through deep snow will help exercise your legs as you build.
  • Ice Skating: A few days ago, you could have ice skated down my driveway! Seriously though, ice skating is a great way to get in some cardio and work other leg muscles you didn’t know you had! It’s great for giving a good workout to your gluteal muscles and thighs.
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Combat Cabin Fever with Brainzy (I’m Giving Away (2) 12-Month Subscriptions!)

brainzy-logo

Since we have received record amounts of snow, and it keeps coming, you are probably running out of tricks to keep from going completely insane the kids from getting  bored or stir crazy (or both!). The boys and I recently had the chance to try out an online site called Brainzy that offers games, worksheets, workbooks and activities in math and reading.

Brainzy is designed for children ages 3 to 7. The online games are fun and focus on age appropriate skills like counting by tens, telling time, ending sounds, and sight words. James (my first grader) really enjoyed the games and sound effects, and the activities align perfectly with what he is learning in school right now.

I love the reading and math worksheet generator, which allows you to insert your child’s spelling words, etc. and generate a crossword, word search, etc. There is also a section to generate common core content. There are over 300 games, 50 read along stories, and 50 songs and videos that help reinforce learning.

Two lucky readers will win a 12-month subscription to Brainzy–just follow the instructions in the Giveaway Tools Widget below:

30 Something Mother Runner received a free 12-month subscription to Brainzy via Education.com. All opinions and writing are 100% my own. 
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Outside the (Chocolate) Box Valentines

I freely confess that I love me some chocolate. However, I am also a big fan of healthier non-chocolate treats for the boys. They have enough energy as it is, so when you add some caffeine and sugar into the mix, you can’t be sure what you’re going to get! I think it’s also fun to make non-chocolate and healthful fruit treats shine.

You can pair them with clever valentine sayings and cute packaging, and they will often be more popular than the candy packet! I went through my Valentine’s Day Pinterest board last week, and I found some super cute non-chocolate valentines. I also added a few other ideas that you can serve as a valentine treats.

Bearitos– These tasty little cinnamon and sugar pita chips were a huge hit with the boys. You could serve them at a Valentine’s Day get together, in a lunch, or in a cute little bag for a sweet treat! I love that they are non-GMO project verified.

Watermelon Shapes– Small heart cookie cutters can make some great looking, healthy fruit treats!

 

Squeezable Pouches– Squeezies are always a big hit in our house, and I LOVE these valentines that feature them!

 

Individual Applesauce Cups– I live in New England, so they had me at “awesome” with this valentine! :-)

 

Cuties– My middle son is pretty much obsessed with Cuties, so these would be perfect.

 

Popcorn– I would opt for an organic (to make sure it’s non-GMO) popcorn option here. You could make your own popcorn (we like Nature’s Promise from Stop and Shop) or buy individual bags with the cute little tags.

 

What are your favorite non-chocolate valentine treats?

 

 

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30 Something Father Figure ~ The Snow Keeps Coming

I’m not big on hashtags, but since they’re pretty much a global phenomena, I’ll sum up the past few weeks with #winterinnewengland.  It’s all-encompassing for dealing with the cold/flu, commuting (or not being able to) in massive amounts of snow and ice, shoveling, cabin fever, not being able to mountain bike, encountering people with seasonal affective disorder… and so as not to be ALL negative – playing in the snow.

Boys Sledding

Everyone Screams for Ice Sledding!

Sticking with the more positive side of things… one of the great things about getting real snow on the Cape, as opposed to sleet or “wintry mix,” is that you can hurtle your kids down a slippery slope on a thin piece of plastic, while hearing them scream and giggle with delight.

I’m not ashamed to say that I get just as much fun out of sledding as my 4 and 6 year olds.  Plus, hauling them back up the hill in 2 feet of snow is nothing to joke about when it comes to getting a workout.

On Monday I had a great session of racquetball.  My friend and I played our closest-matched ball so far, with me winning the rubber match 15-13.  We’re starting to get to the next plateau in terms of skill I think. Either way, it was a great workout. I wish I could play more often, but with things as busy as they are for everyone right now, I’m probably lucky to play once a week.

Garage after blizzard

In other news, my wife and I did our first night of home exercise (G-rated)… she suggested getting an ab DVD, and while I may have laughed at that a few years ago, there’s nothing wrong with working your core from the comfort of your own home.

Ok comfort might not be the most fitting word; neither one of us got through the workout with the ease of the jerks on the DVD. I used to have a chiseled six-pack, but now it’s a little tougher to see the definition. If we stick with it, I think we’ll both be really happy with the results. A strong core is great for skiing and mountain biking… and who can complain about looking good in a 2-piece bathing suit?!

I don’t want to get all negative again, but this is the longest into the ski season I’ve ever gone without skiing… we’re talking in almost 30 years (I’m 33). I was supposed to take my 4-year-old last week but it was frigid up north and he was just getting over a cold.

I hope to take him next week, and then the plan is to take all of March off to go skiing.  Let’s hope my wife doesn’t read down this far in the post. If she does, she’ll just assume I’m being sarcastic.  Seriously though, I need to start locking in some ski trips with anyone who will go with me – day trips or overnight, big mountains or small.  There’s probably enough snow piled up on the corner of my street now that I could take the kids out for some turns.

That’s all I have for this week, time to put in a phone reminder to do my lunges… I’ll thank myself when I finally hit the slopes soon.  Happy winter to all of you in a cold climate, and to the rest of you smart enough to move somewhere else…nevermind, I can’t write that here.

 

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