Categories
Article

Running products you don’t need

It’s no secret that I’m a minimalist at heart, and unsurprisingly that minimalism spills into my running. There are countless products available for runners, most of which you can survive just fine without. If you’ve just started running, it might be tempting to go out and buy a bunch of running accessories.

Expensive Shoes

You might think that the more you pay for your shoes, the less likely you are to suffer an injury. However, research has found that the more you spend on your running shoes, the more likely you are to get injured (link).

Expensive Clothes

You could spend hundreds of dollars on specialised running clothes made of high-tech fabric and that will make you look more beautiful. Or you could do your small bit to save the planet and use an old t-shirt that would otherwise end up in landfill. Although I admit, a good pair of running shorts is not as negotiable, as that’s where the chafing can happen. Let me know in the comment of you have any money saving suggestions for running clothing.

GPS Trackers

Did you realise that before GPS running watches and apps were invented, people got satisfaction from the simple act of running without uploading a map of their workout to the internet? I know! It’s hard to believe, but you can do it too. Just give it a try. It feels so liberating. Like running naked (but I don’t recommend that).

Water Bottles

OK. Use your own judgement on this one. If you’re running a long way or in hot weather, ignore me. However, if you’re running for less than an hour, you can’t sweat enough to need to drink during your run. If you like a bit of controversy, check out Tim Noake’s book, “Waterlogged”. Disclaimer: don’t blame me if you die.

I would love to hear your suggestions of running products that you don’t need, or money saving ideas for running. Let me know in the comments.

Categories
Article

A quick, simple strength training program for trail runners

Strength training is a critically important part of a trail runner’s program, but one that’s overlooked far too often.  Runners want to spend their spare time running.  They don’t want to waste it beefing up in the gym.  Trail runners, especially, want to spend their time outdoors, enjoying nature.  Would you rather be stuck in a gym doing repetitive weights, or out on a trail enjoying the outdoors?

The benefits of weight training are well established.  Strength training can improve cardiovascular fitness, improve your balance, strengthen your bones, and help you lose weight.  Importantly though for trail runners, strength training can reduce the risk of injury by strengthening specific muscles and other soft tissues that are put under stress by trail running.  In particular, these are the foot, ankle and calves.  Also, strengthening muscles like the glute and the smaller leg muscles improves balance and agility, which leads to reduced injury.

This strength program is designed specifically for trail runners, but also suitable for non-trail runners.  These few exercises are all you need to maximise your trail running and reduce injury.  In fact, keeping it simple increases the effectiveness and makes it easier to stick to.  The best part is that it doesn’t have to take a lot of time.  One strength workout per week is plenty for the average trail runner.  And each workout will only take about 30 minutes.  Minimising the amount of time required for strength workouts makes it more likely that they’ll actually get done.

Single-leg deadlift

OK.  I started with a tricky one but don’t leave just yet.  The single-leg deadlift is the ultimate goal.  Start with a double-leg deadlift before moving on to the single-leg version or you’ll probably have difficulty or hurt yourself, and you’ll definitely have poor form.  

The single-leg deadlift does so much in one action.  It’s one of those compound exercises that develops functional fitness by working multiple muscle groups at once.  Deadlifts work just about every muscle in the leg, including glute, calf, quad, hamstring and Adductor Magnus.  They also work numerous back and abdominal muscles.  Single-leg deadlifts are even more awesome because they also require torso, pelvic, and hip stability.

How to do it

  • Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Hold the barbell with your arms fully extended toward the ground, hands shoulder-width apart, and palms facing your thighs. While lifting one foot a few inches off the floor to bring it behind you, slightly bend the knee of your supporting leg.
  • Push your hips backward, bending at the waist to lower your torso toward the ground as your rear leg trails behind you to help with balance. Push out your chest, only going as low as you can without your lower back rounding. Let the weights touch the floor, pause, and then squeeze your glutes to return to the starting position.

Instead of the barbell, you can also use dumbbells or kettlebells, or just one kettlebell for extra emphasis on stability and balance.

Weighted hops

Single legged hops with dumbbells or a barbell strengthen the calves, which are important for stability on technical trails and for powering up hills.

How to do it

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet together.
  • Lift one leg off the floor and balance on the other.
  • Hop up and down and do the same motion until exhaustion. Switch sides and repeat.

Do this exercise without wearing shoes.

Single leg balance

This exercise improves balance and strengthens foot and ankle muscles.

How to do it

  • Stand on a BOSU ball.
  • Lift one leg up, bending your standing leg slightly.
  • Stay in this position for as long as you can until your muscles become fatigued and cause you to lose your balance.
  • Repeat three to five times.
  • For an extra challenge, try it with your eyes closed.

Jumping lunges

This is another one of those exercises that work just about every muscle in your legs.  Specifically, it works the quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves and hip flexors.

How to do it

  • To begin, start standing tall with your feet staggered, your left foot slightly in front of your right. Making sure you’re not too stiff, keep your stance active with your knees bent in a slight but not full lunge.
  • With your core engaged, push off the bottom of both feet into a jump, switching the position of your feet in mid-air, landing in a basic lunge with your right leg in front.
  • Without rest, repeat this movement alternating which leg is in front. To prevent injury, make sure your back leg is bent directly underneath your body and your front leg is bent at 90 degrees at the knee and hip.
  • Repeat to exhaustion.
Categories
Article

Why do my eyes water when I run?

Having your eyes water when you run can be annoying. There are a few reasons why your eyes might be watering, and a few solutions to the problem.

Essentially, it boils down to excessive tear production or poor tear draining.  But if it only starts being a problem when you run, then excessive tear production is probably the cause.  But what’s causing your eyes to go a little overboard with the extra tears?

Causes

Our body produces tears to keep our eyes lubricated, and to flush out any dirt and dust that might get in. But when the body produces too many tears, the result is excessively watery eyes.  The eyes kick up tear production under a number of conditions.  Tear over-secretion is usually caused by irritation or inflammation of the surface of the eye.  Cold weather, wind, dry conditions, and dust can all increase tear production.  Sometimes tear production increases so much that the tear ducts can’t drain it away fast enough.

What to do about it

First, remember to blink. It sounds a little basic, but the mechanical action of blinking helps with tear distribution and drainage.  Often when you’re focusing on something, you don’t blink as much.  Maybe it’s a beautiful sunrise.  Or maybe it’s the distant city lights.  Whatever it is you might be focusing on, try to remember to blink while admiring it.

Since cold, dry, dirty, and dry air are all environmental conditions that you can protect your eyes from, simply trying some eye protection should help. Sunglasses, particularly the wraparound variety, will shield your eyes from the harsh conditions and keep the crying at bay.  You can even find glasses to won’t darken your outlook too much.

If excessive tear production doesn’t reduce, the condition may be treated with eye drops or medication.  Keep in mind that persistently watering eyes can be a symptom of other medical problems.  Obviously, see a doctor about that.

Further reading

I hope this was helpful.  Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions or comments.  Do you suffer from watery eyes when you run?  Is it usually associated with environmental conditions?

Categories
Article

How to make more time for running

When training for a long distance running event (anything over half marathon distance), you’ll quickly discover that it can be a very time consuming hobby. Especially if you get into trail ultramarathons, you’ll find that a good portion of most weekends can be consumed by running about your nearby hills. Here I’ll share my tips for maximising your training time and making sure you have a little left over for resting.

Commute

If it’s practical, run to work. If it’s too far, run part of the way. There are plenty of resources on the internet with advice for commuting. I’m lucky enough to live 17km from work, which is a manageable distance to make commuting practical.

Do more, shorter runs

Maybe you can only manage smaller windows of time. It’s probably easier to squeeze in two 30 minute runs than it is to do a 1 hour run. You could do an early morning run and an after work run, or maybe a run in your lunch break and a run after work. If you can do two 5K runs per day, that’s 70K per week. That’s a great baseline for most ultra distance events.

Treadmill (or run at night)

I can hear you groaning, but if you run out of daylight, consider adding in a treadmill run, or run at night. I like to do a 30 minute lunch run and a 30 minute treadmill in the evening.

Work less

Whoa. That sounds pretty crazy, but negotiating this type of thing with your employer is probably not as hard as you might think. You could cut back your hours to 4 days per week, on a temporary basis. The pay difference probably won’t break the bank.

Let me know if these tips were helpful. How do you squeeze ultramarathon training into your daily schedule? If you have any questions or anything to add, fell free to leave a comment below.

Categories
Article

The benefits of running at night and how to do it safely

Running at night is sometimes necessitated by life filling up the daylight hours.  It can also be a lot of fun, either with others or by yourself (if the silence and darkness don’t freak you out).  Here are some of the benefits and challenges of running at night.

Benefits

Here are some of the benefits of running at night.

The heat

Especially in the Australian summer, running during the heat of the day can be foolhardy.  Unless you’re training for the Badwater 135, of course.  Running after sunset, the atmosphere is cooler and more relaxed.  If you’re running on roads, there’s generally less traffic, and if you’re running on trails, the wildlife emerge from their hidey holes and begin their nocturnal activities.

Your health

It’s often assumed that working out or running at night causes the release of endorphins and other stimulants which prevent the body from feeling sleepy. However, research suggests that people who engage in physical activity before bedtime, achieve better sleep[1][2].

Sunrise or sunset

For mo, seeing a sunrise or sunset never gets old.  Why not time your run to take in one of nature’s gorgeous displays?  Sunsets are awesome, but there’s something even more magical about getting out while it’s still dark and witnessing the beginning of a new day while most people are still asleep.

20170521_171147(0)

Nocturnal animals

Particularly in Australia, a lot of our larger animals are nocturnal and they’re particularly active around dawn and dusk.  Encountering kangaroos and koalas is quite common, even near urban areas.  If you’re lucky, you can also see echidnas, emus, possums, owls, and many more.  In fact, the list could be an article by itself.

Safety

We’ve covered the fun stuff.  Now a few tips for staying safe while running at night.

Run toward traffic

If you’re running near roads, run toward oncoming traffic so you can see what the cars closest to you are doing.  Keep in mind that they might no be able to see you even though you can see them.

Lights and reflective clothing

If you’re running on trails, you’ll need some sort of light source.  The brighter, the better for avoiding obstacles.

If you’re running on roads, the streetlights are probably bright enough that you can see where you’re going but you need to ensure that you can be seen by other road users.  Reflective clothing should do the trick, but there’s no harm in taking a headlamp too.

Pull out the earbuds

People listen to music while trail running? Are you sure?

If you normally listen to music while running, give it a miss at night.  That’s just an accident waiting to happen.

Eye protection

You may not be able to see branches at head height.  A cap and clear glasses should avoid any foreign objects stabbing you in the eyeballs.

ID

In the event of something unfortunate happening, having some form of ID on you is going to be helpful.  Consider something like a Road ID.  If you wear it all the time, you won’t forget to bring it on your run.

References

[1] Sherrill DL, Kotchou K, Quan SF. Association of Physical Activity and Human Sleep Disorders. Arch Intern Med. 1998;158(17):1894–1898. doi:10.1001/archinte.158.17.1894

[2] Kredlow, M.A., Capozzoli, M.C., Hearon, B.A. et al. J Behav Med (2015) 38: 427. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-015-9617-6

Do you run at night?  Do you have any tips to add? Let me know in the comments.

Categories
Article

Trail running videos for your treadmill workout

Running on a treadmill can be a tedious affair.  The tedium can be even more acute for trail runners who are accustomed to enjoying the sensory stimulation of running in nature.  I usually listen to audiobooks if I have to do any treadmill running, but I recently found another alternative.

There are a number of channels on YouTube with videos of people running trails, so you can do your run on a treadmill and watch a first-person view of a beautiful trail run.

I’ve included a few below, but just search for “virtual trail run” and you’ll find plenty more.

Do you have any favourite videos for treadmill running? Post them in the comments.  If you don’t use videos, how do you keep your treadmill workouts interesting?