Sunday, July 24, 2011

Running Apps

Ok all you smartphone owners!  There is actually a productive way to put that expensive machine you haul around with you everywhere (yes I mean besides checking Facebook and Twitter).  

There are a bunch of apps out there that track your runs via map, mileage, speed and then, post them online for you, as well as a handful of other features.  I've recently downloaded a few with the "Pro" upgrades (thanks to Amazon Android App Market they were free), so they had some additional features.  Now I just need to figure out which one I like the best.

One of my favorite bloggers Robert Scoble  recently posted a similar thought on his Google+ stream (or whatever the equivalent to status is),  and got 141 comments!  Now I'm not expecting to get that response lol, we only have 8 followers! But those comments got me thinking, what is the best running app out there?  

As of now I have the following apps on my phone:  
adidas miCoach
CardioTrainer Pro
JogTracker Pro
My Tracks
runtastic GPS Coach

I used CardioTrainer Pro on the run this morning, it actually stopped tracking the first half mile, so I was a bit irritated about that.  However, it does have an integrated music function which is pretty cool.  Unfortunately for me, 99% of my music is stored in a cloud, and very little on my devise, so this function is only slightly helpful.  It also has a coach that will let you know your pace and how far you've run so you don't have to look at your screen.  My favorite feature though is that you can schedule workouts and if you don't do them, the program yells at you via a notification at the top of your screen.  Also it tells you how many calories you've burned in the last seven days on your screen via the notification bar.

iMapMyRun was the first running app I ever downloaded.  I've used it the last couple of runs, and haven't been disappointed with it yet.  It keeps a map of where you've run (which is helpful for when you get turned around) and 

adidas miCoach was downloaded for this post.  So far I'm liking all the information you need to give it.  And you can even have Reggie Bush as your trainer!  I picked the female, because I'm pretty sure Reggie wouldn't work out too well for me.  There is also a website for more details of your workouts.  So far I'm a fan.

I'll get back to you about the rest later!  I want to give them all at least one go before I make final decisions.

Report card coming soon!


Friday, July 8, 2011

New Kicks!

Ok, so ignoring the fact that Megan and I have been the worst bloggers ever recently (hey, life gets busy!)... 

I got new running shoes!!

But I'm very excited to tell you guys about the process.  I went to a local running store,Pacers Running Store in DC, after talking to a woman about her awesome kicks at the grocery store-totally random, I know, but I love chatting with people.  She gets all of her shoes there, so I thought I'd give it a try.  I had heard other good things about Pacers, actually one of my friends is training for the Marine Corps Marathon with them, but wasn't sure if I wanted to spend the money on new shoes.  Let me tell you though, after the whole experience of buying there I won't ever buy athletic shoes from a regular store again.  

So I get to the store after work and walking in I was a bit overwhelmed to say the least.  A few moments after standing looking baffled an associate noticed I needed a ton of help-remember I have "special" feet.  So we started chatting, mentioned that I'm training for a half marathon (Disney Princess 2012!!) and maybe one or two other races before hand.  

I give him the rundown about my feet, what *think* I need, and that I have inserts that I'd like to try on with the shoes.  So we start off with some a pair of Adidas that I'm a big fan of, but I felt like I was swimming in them.  He shows me over to a treadmill that I get on and it has a flat screen in front of it with a camera mounted at the end of the belt.  It records your steps and slows down each stride.  I needed a shoe that was more stable, I over rotate to the inside of my ankle.  

He brings out about 5 more pairs, apparently my heel is pretty narrow- so he's looking for shoes that are wide at the toes, and narrow at the heels.  This guy knows his shoes, very impressive.  We talked about Vibrams, the new barefoot trend in shoes and races.  He knows his stuff.  So I get back on the treadmill with a few more shoes, some of them feel pretty good, others are just alright, some feel plain right huge on me.  I ended up wearing a different shoe on each feet because I have no idea which one I like more.  I hop back on the treadmill and see which I like better.  Between the Brooks and the Saucony, the Saucony won.  I really like the way the were snug and he even tied my laces in some crazy special way to make it tighter around my heel! 

I highly recommend visiting a local running store, if you have one.  These stores know pretty much all there is to know about shoes, sure you may pay a bit more than at a department or sporting goods store, but you're going to get excellent service and leave with the "right" pair of shoes!


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Feet Accessories Part 1

Unfortunately, though like many runners, I fall into the special needs category when it comes to my feet.  I have bunions thanks to my loving grandmother, as they are genetic, therefore I have very special feet.  I first noticed my bunions when I was in 6th grade at a lock-in. My friend asked what was wrong with my feet, I had no idea there was anything wrong with them!  Blew my mind.

Obviously your feet are pretty important when it comes to running.  So I recently visited my podiatrist to have him check me out, give me the go ahead to keep running, and see if I needed any surgery.  Luckily my doctor isn't one to slice open his patients!  He said that the decision was completely up to me and that I should think long and hard about it.  While I would love to not be in pain and have to stop running to take care of my toe, I'd rather not be out of commission for almost a year which is how long it'd take to recover after back to back surgeries.

While I was at his office, I also wanted the doctor to make sure that some inserts that I purchased at the Disney Princess expo were a good fit for me.  Turns out they are great!  Which was what I was hoping expecting to hear (The inserts certainly weren't cheap, so I was hoping I made a good purchase).   

During the expo, Megan and I were walking around and found a booth by ALINE, a company that claims to make "The World's Most Advanced Insole", which of course I was skeptical of, but they offered to fit me for free, so I thought I'd try it out.

The man fitting me had me stand on a platform and place my feet in front of 2 lasers.  The purpose of the lasers were to show how you stood, and I had no idea, but I stand bow legged. Good to know, I guess. They then turned off the lasers, gave me a trial pair of inserts in my size to stand on and flipped the switch, my legs were no longer bowed and I was standing straight. My ankles were directly below my knees and my knees were directly below my hips!  They did have to add an extra boost to the one side over the other to get my correctly aligned.  

Now I know you aren't supposed to wear something you've never run in for a race, but these inserts were wonderful! (Thank goodness.  No one wants to chuck expensive gear during a race because it's causing pain.)  I wore them during the race and had no shin splints or any other pains, you know, besides being exhausted after running 13.1 miles.  

I highly recommend visiting a podiatrist  if you're experiencing any foot pain while you run, it's important to get it correctly or at least addresses before it results in an injury.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Jelly Bean Virtual Race

I follow quite a few other running blogs written by women; it's nice to share in the successes of others and to help gain some advice from the struggles we all endure.  Anywho, one of the blogger's, Jess, organized a fantastically cute virtual race for this past week, The Jelly Bean!

Virtual races are a smart idea when gas prices are up and it becomes that much more expensive to travel to actual races.  And when you start adding those travel costs to entry fees, the number of events you can attend start to dwindle.  The Jelly Bean race was free to enter and was on a runner's honor to report your official time - there was really no need to cheat because the winners of prizes that Jess' sponsors provided would be randomly selected.  P.S. awesome sponsors for this event, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed to maybe win something :)

I planned to cover my 5k during my 4-mile training run scheduled for Saturday, unfortunately the weather that morning had other plans.  Luckily, the rain cleared up and by mid-afternoon it was beautiful, albeit pretty windy!  My boyfriend and I still took it as an invitation to head down to the trail to get a 5k in.  My time was not incredible, 34:12, but with the 3% grade and a headwind in both directions, I was alright with it.  I didn't force myself to hit a certain pacing so it was a nice mind-clearing run. 

I highly encourage newer runners to look around for these "virtual races."  It's a great way to accomplish a goal of "running a race" without the stress or worry of not being fast enough or being last.  I do miss the competition aspect of running in an actual race, though.  I have a bit of a stubborn and driven personality, so when I'm in a race I tend to push myself that much more, just to prove to others that I can. 

Regardless, I had a blast with my first virtual race. Thank you, Jess, for organizing such a cute event!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Recovery starts even before you run!

Last week my local running store held a free recovery clinic to try out some products geared solely for helping you to recover from your long runs/races faster.  I have some knee issues and I'm usually sufficiently sore after my long runs, so I figured this would be right up my alley.  I personally think the best thing you can do is to educate yourself, never assume you know everything, because you probably don't.  I also plan to run as long as I can and a way to insure that is to learn how I can stay injury free and recover faster.

I was pretty surprised that there were only a handful of us in attendance.  There were mostly guys and the only two women.  Maybe the date/time wasn't convenient for most?  Who knows.  Anywho, there were three vendor representatives there: Arctic Ease, CEP, and Skins - I'll give you a quick rundown (oh yeah, pun intended) on each.

Arctic Ease - This is a completely new product to the market that aims to solve the mobility and safety issues that result from icing post-run.

(Okay, let me backup just a second to cover why you need to ice, because this was new to me too, though complete common sense.  When you run, or exercise in general, you're creating microscopic tears in your muscles which usually results in soreness and/or swelling.  If you ice post-run you reduce the amount of swelling and soreness.)

Where Arctic Ease differs is that the product, basically a cold ace bandage stays at 59 degrees, cold enough to promote the same benefits as icing, not cold enough to induce frostbite (if you do ice with actual ice, please please follow the 20 on/off guidelines!)  What's really cool about Arctic Ease is that you don't have to refrigerate it, it's cold right out of the bag and it's reusable you just add a little bit of water and reseal the bag.  (I'm already thinking about Disney Princess Half for 2012 and this is a travel-friendly product for sure!)  I scored a couple of free samples from the vendor rep and will definitely be picking some full-size product up during the Pittsburgh Marathon Expo next month.

CEP Compression - Next up was compression socks and no these aren't your grandmother's medical compression socks, though they are made by a company with experience in medical-grade compression. The fit is something you have to get used to: the foot is like a standard sock (only there's one specifically made for each of your feet so pay attention to the L and R when putting them on!), only compression starts at the ankle, where it's the tightest and loosens up as it goes up the calf.  CEP sizes based on your calf size, rather than shoe size, to ensure the proper amount of compression.  It's kind of like Golidlocks, too much and too little are not going to be beneficial, you really need it "just right" to get the full benefits.

(Okay, time for another interjection on the benefits of compression.  Thanks to gravity, when you're upright, either standing or sitting, blood tends to pool more towards your feet and ankles.  When you're running you're breaking lots of red blood cells in your feet and with poor circulation, that waste stays in your legs and feet. Sounds pleasant, right? Compression socks help to aid the blood flow and move that waste out of your legs faster, helping to alleviate or minimize soreness.)

Compression socks (well all compression apparel, really) can be worn before, during, and after a running event.  The CEP rep recommended wearing these socks before your run especially if you're traveling a long distance to your race by car or by air.  Wearing these during a race is a matter of preference, apparently.  Some people like the added muscle support that they provide, while others find them too warm to run in.  After the race, it is really recommended that you slip into these and wear them for a few hours to help your circulation.
The CEP socks are extremely lightweight and comfortable.  I couldn't help myself but to buy a pair of the super bright pink ones!  I absolutely love them;, I put them on after a run in my FiveFingers that really worked my calves and I had no soreness at all the next day.  Now, these socks aren't exactly cheap, but they really are worth it.  If you wear them every day you can expect them to last around 6 months, I'm hoping to get about a year out of them, but will probably pick up another pair, maybe the sleeves to wear with my FF!, at the Pitt Marathon Expo.

Skins - Continuing with the compression theme, skins produces compression apparel, including shirts, capris and tights.  This company makes both an active (during the race) and a recovery (after the race) line.  Now, I had a hard time imagining slipping in a full head-to-toe compression outfit after running a race.  Personally, all I want to do is take a shower and get into the baggiest clothes I can find.  Right now, Skins are a little out of my price range, but after trying compression socks I can see how they could be very beneficial.  Maybe I'll try them in the future.

I definitely thought the clinic was a worthwhile investment of time and I highly recommend that any runner attend one near you or at least do some more research on running recovery. I certainly learned a lot and I'm going to try the icing trick after my next long run/race, though I'm shivering just thinking about it!


Saturday, April 16, 2011

FiveFingers Friday: Things. Are. Going. Slow.

(Okay, so it's Saturday... things were a bit busy yesterday, so please forgive me!)

First of all, if you know me, you know that I struggle with both my patience and my stubbornness.  I always want to push further, faster, harder, than I probably should; sometimes it gets me into trouble and I end up with an injury.

Well, my goal with FiveFinger training has been to. take. it. sloooooooooooooow.  (I think I've gotten somewhat wiser with age...) But, it hasn't been easy, let me tell you.  Vibram recommends not running on two consecutive days and starting with just 10% of your mileage.  Since I've been back from Disney, I've been running 3-5 miles for my workouts- 10% of that is a half a mile!  It's frustrating to think of driving to the trail to run half a mile only to either drive back home or run back to the car to change shoes, so I've been getting most of my runs in on the dreadmill.  (Yes, mine is by far a dreadmill.  It's in a small room in the basement with no windows and nothing to look at other than taupe walls!!! I seriously need a tv down there or something!) I wanted so badly to just put them on an run like normal!  I know that taking it slow is better in the long run, especially if I want to continue running in general. 

Last night the weather was beautiful so I took the invitation to get out on the trail and really break in my new kicks.  I ran a 10 minute mile in the FiveFingers, without too much issue, but decided not to push it too much, so I ran another half a mile before walking for a bit.  I finished running a short sprint and I'll admit, i've never run sprints on my forefeet before, but it felt great.

I came home and slipped into my new CEP compression socks (in bright pink!).  The compression is supposed to help with circulation and lactic acid build-up.  Since the FiveFingers work your calf muscles a lot, especially during sprints, I thought it would be a good idea to try and ward off any pain in advance. I can honestly say that my legs feel great this morning! So it looks like the CEP socks were a great investment (they aren't cheap, that's for sure!)

It's still slow going with my training but I'm sure it will get better. I have a four mile run next weekend in preparation for the Pittsburgh Marathon.  I'm currently slated for the 1st leg of our 5 person relay team, but one of our members injured her knee and may not be able to run, so who actually knows what I'll end up running. I'm also running a 5k with my boyfriend the morning before the marathon, maybe I'll be up to 3 miles in my FiveFingers by then.  Time will tell...


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Muffin Madness

I love baking, I love baking much more than I love cooking.  I just enjoy the end product so much more, that probably has something to do with my ridiculous sweet tooth though.  However, most baked things are chock full of sugar and other ingredients that can be considered bad for you, so I try to stick with healthy baking, and no that's not an oxymoron.

I made Banana-Cranberry Spice Muffins (recipe can be found here).  It is a recipe that I've made a handful of times that is super easy and delicious!  It makes a dozen but I can't eat them all before they go bad, so after they cool I throw them in the freezer and just toast them in the morning.  A quick and easy breakfast for the days you're low on time!

The best thing about these muffins is that they are high in fiber from the Fiber One Cereal that is added.  After mixing all the wet ingredients together you crunch up 1 cup of the cereal, add it in and let it soak for 5 minutes.  

Then add all the dry ingredients together while the cereal soaks.  Don't all those spices on top look awesome!  I love cinnamon and nutmeg! 

After you've combined the wet and dry the last step is to mix in the cranberries.  They are so moist and add great texture to the muffins.  

Finally, place the mixture into the muffin pan, this for me is the hardest part.  I always end up getting batter everywhere.  After 20 to 25 minutes you have delicious muffins!  My favorite Food Network Chef Alton Brown always suggests letting muffins and cupcakes cool upside down so that the tops don't go flat.  

Look how yummy this is!

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!  Let me know if there are any other healthy muffin recipes, I would love to try them myself!