Monday, August 15, 2011

Tracking your workout without gadgets, continued...and a little more...

I recalled this while running Lake Fayetteville trail today and also had left them out of previous blog because it was getting too long.
Using your senses while running let you have a sense of how well you are doing. The particular example I have is with hearing and feeling the wind on your skin. The hearing is for the friction of wind on your ears. Pay attention ext time and you will know what I mean. Under similar weather conditions and even similar terrain and vegetation (all these factors influence how wind behaves), start running slow. Pay attention to the friction caused by yourself moving through air. Then increase your pace and you will notice some friction, similar to when you start driving your car with the windows rolled down. As you increase speed, the friction noise increases. In the beginning, because of the lower speed, you may not hear friction but as the car increases speed, the friction can be annoying.
This part applies to similar conditions (weather and terrain) and even applies to a personal level. If you think about it, this subjective indicator is influenced by aerodynamics and, yes, your ears and hair length and hairdo play a role there too.
The second piece I wanted to mention is a way to seek improvement in your workout. This time is by always trying to increase the length of your stride. Look ahead and analyze the ground in the immediate feet ahead of you, especially when running on dirt. Lake Fayetteville has about one third of its length in dirt and through the woods so there are many spots where superficial tree roots lay across the trail so in situations like that, think of making a longer stride instead of two short ones in order to run over a tree root or a stump on your path. It may seem silly but it adds up and, perhaps more importantly, help you condition yourself to a faster and stronger pace.
Third, when you run with the sun in the horizon on either side of you, try to spot your shadow with the corner of your eye and check if you line what you see. You will see your shadow but pay attention to the form and pace and consistency. You should be able to tell whiter you are going too slow, strong or weak, and at ease or struggling. If you don't like what you see, you will know what to do to correct it. Do anything that comes to your mind except stopping!

Last, I want to poke your brain: when do you lower your head, looking down to your feet and keep your mouth shut when running, even if you are exhausted?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

how to keep track of workouts with and without gadgets

So you have started to get serious about your running workouts. At least, as stated in previous blog, just to your inner competition with yourself. Now you have created a necessity for keeping track of your workouts. That is the way to measure performance and improvement of your endurance. I’ve been thinking about this lately after realizing the world of alternatives for that purpose available out there.
A few months ago, when I started running, I didn’t have even a watch. My old watch broke and I never bothered to get it fixed or replaced because I got used to checking the time on my cell phone. After a few runs, I started to think about keeping track of my workouts and I store sale on watched gave the excuse to buy one with stopwatch function (among some other features that I always wanted to have but that is subject of another story.) That function allowed me to start keeping track of my workouts and got me excited when realizing that I was indeed getting improvements by means of reducing times when running the same trail (Lake Fayetteville.) More recently, I have grown a desire for something beyond keeping track of my times at running the lake Fayetteville trail: I want to know the real distance run for example and that kind of things. I saw the opportunity when looking for running shorts at a Nike store, noticed their running gadget sold under the Nike+ name which is a wristband, usb-type device that works with a nice looking flat token that inserts underneath the innersole of one of your shoes. Of course Nike offers shoes made especially to receive that token. A tip: you don’t need to buy the shoes neither the wrist band, only the token ($19.00) if you have an iPhone (yes, there is an app for that).
There are some other apps that don’t need even a token and can keep track of your work out (there should be similar apps for other kinds of smart phones; it’s just a matter of looking). These things are really neat technological advances because they not only let you keep track of your workouts by keeping record of distance, time and calories burned, but also let you upload the information onto the web and share that with friends or even publicly. Some go even further by allowing live track so that your friends can see where you are in real life and thus catch up! Another interesting feature is that it is possible, by means of sharing the information publicly, find running partners in the area where you are located or plan to get a workout. The app I know allows for this is called iMapMyRUN.
There are some other gadgets that also monitor your heart rates and blood pressure, besides keeping track of your distances and times at working out. I have no experience with any but I suggest you do a little research online and check reviews for the products and brands you are interested in as I heard that some stop working as soon as sweat starts pouring out your skin. Don’t only buy cheap, do your homework before as most times you get what you pay for!
So, as you can see, there are plenty of gadgets that help in different way to keep track of your workouts. It is a matter of defining what you want to do in order to know what you really need. Keep in mind that what you have right now may be all you need (if you have a smart phone for example, look for an app that allows you to log your workout.)
Now the next thing; how can you keep track of your workouts and improvements without gadgets? The short answer is, by using your senses. This is interesting and I’ll explain with some examples next, but first must note that these are only ways to SUBJECTIVELY measure your workout advances. First, feel the way your body responds to the physical demand of the workout and try to relate that to landmarks on your trail. You will not start sweating right away and rather you may start sweating 10, 20 or 30 minutes into the workout. If you have a point of reference along the trail where you notice you start sweating that will be one way to know whether you are running a little slower (chances are you are not sweating yet) or you may be pushing yourself (you start sweating a little before getting to your point of reference.) During the workout you will also start feeling pain and, as you progress, the pain will go away. Check those two other points of reference. Of course, those physiological responses (sweat, pain) can be altered by other conditions (see or for examples) that is why they are subjective.
A logical one is your breathing rate: short of breath, you are tired and or pushing yourself, whereas if you feel comfortable and able to breathe in and out through your nose without major effort, don’t be lazy and run a little faster!
Be aware of everything around you in general. That will give you not only ways to keep track of your workout but also ways to push yourself and increase your performance and endurance. An example of this is what I noticed this evening while running on the dirt section of Lake Fayetteville trail which is narrow and goes through the woods. A biker behind me gave me the warning so I moved to the side of the trail and jogged on the same spot while he passed and also indicated there was another biker behind. I looked back and saw nobody so I continued running but continuously checking behind for the second biker. I ran faster! It was a challenge (to and with myself of course) as I tried to cover as much distance as possible before the second biker passed me. It turned out that the second biker did not catch up (he probably fell off his/her bike) because nobody passed me for the remaining mile to mile and a half of the trail. Another thing is, for a biker to pass by it only takes one second so don’t stop way early for them to pass. If you remain jogging on the same spot for a biker to pass, and that takes you ten or more seconds, you are wasting time.
OK, this blog is getting a little too long so I’ll stop here. I hope you got some ideas on how to keep track of your workouts, with or without gadgets. I reckon the latter can be fun!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

My recipe for reducing cholesterol

I have to be honest, I didn’t intend it to turn out this way, but that is the most plausible explanation I can come up with for a reduction of about 20% in my cholesterol levels. Over the past 6 months or so, I have been running ( check out a few blogs about it: ) and i have been competing against myself ( ) and also joking about things I come across along those months of running ( )
Looking back, I have come a long way for a guy my age and lifestyle (a lucky, healthy couch potato): started running, hurt and overcome muscle injury, got a few breakthroughs in my running (from running-walking combination in the beginning, to completing the entire loop running for about 65 minutes, to just below 60 min, then to about 55, then to little less than 53, and today, 0:4922!!! Every breakthrough is a stimulus to try it again another time and try to do it better.
I’ve always said that exercise should be a part of a balanced life. Exercise provides a sense of confidence. I guess the reason is the endorphin secretion that takes place when demanding the body to make that physical effort. Right after running, your worries may not be completely dissipated but at least they don’t seem as bad. Your brain should also have its share of extra benefit as usually after exercising, ideas tend to come clearer. Because of this, exercising is a great tool to fight depression and also build self confidence, two well known facts about its benefits.
But that is not all! Cholesterol can also be lowered by consistent exercise. I have been taking a blood chemistry profile every year, at about the same time for three years now. I just got the results and I was in disbelief. My first year showed I was border line with cholesterol levels. I didn’t worry much about it. The second year, my cholesterol level went above the upper limit considered as normal and I got a little concerned but didn’t do much either. I had started a while before that second test, to watch closer what I was eating as well as how much, but not necessarily with enough discipline to say no to the occasional burger or certainly the summer weekend barbeques and grills. I continued on the same path about eating and have also tried to eat a little more consistently fruits and vegetables (not that I didn’t do before by the way). However the one thing that I have done much more different before my third test was the exercising part. This spring and summer have been about running and that is the only explanation I can come up with for such a reduction of cholesterol levels: about 20% which brings me back to the “safety” range. There is no scientific trial behind my conclusion but I am convinced that is the reason. Besides, the scientific literature backs me up and says even more (most times, exercise is more consistent and efficacious than other strategies at lowering cholesterol.)

It pays off to plan ahead your running in hot weather

Do you run to compete against others? Or do you do it for yourself?
I tend to be a little introvert so I definitely run for myself and against myself. I have noticed I am constantly trying to better previous marks. The funny thing is that, most times, whenever I have a breakthrough, I think "there is no way I am going to better that performance", but, one thing I have also learned with running is that if you keep I consistent, more often than not, you end up surprising yourself with more and more breakthroughs until you start gaining confidence in yourself and want to do the next run to see how much better you can outdo yourself. Here are a few points to consider before running.
• Dress conformable. Don’t overdo your outfit. You only need a shirt, shorts and a good pair of running shoes. Professional clothing is not necessary for amateurs so keep it simple.
• Get to the trail/track hydrated. Let’s face it, carrying a water bottle for a one-hour-or-so run is not going to help your hydration and rather will hold you back.
• Run light. Forget about the gadgets and stuff, like the water bottle, hip pouch bag or even the iphone or itouch. Even car keys are a distraction, I have even come to learning the keyless entry code of my car so that I can run as light as possible.
• Strategize on your route. Lake Fayetteville trail (check previous blog: is a great training trail and I stick to it whenever I can put one full hour on my running any given day. Lately, this summer season, temperatures have reached triple digits, something a little unusual for the northwest Arkansas area but it’s either you do it or you don’t. I have chosen the former and thus, have endured 98-100 temperatures, so what do I do? Of course I wait until the evening, about 7-7:30 pm and run counterclockwise, starting on the veterans park, if it is in the evening, because the first part goes through the woods, completely shaded and by the time I reach the open, paved, section of the trail, the sun is setting or at least very low. Temperatures are still in the upper 90s but at least sun does not hit you directly as that open section of the trail is shaded by then and you can also feel a light breeze.
• Time yourself and know your landmarks. By knowing your landmarks and the time it takes to get there, you can measure progress.
• You may laugh about this but if you can run with an empty stomach, or even better, empty bowels, your performance running should be improved. Most times, I go for a run after work and what I do is take a light lunch and certainly no dinner before my evening runs.
• Push it. Make and extra effort and push yourself harder, even if it is only for short stretches of your run and then slow down to catch back your breath. Take advantage when going downhill and, even if you feel short of breath, push it. It’s not that hard when going down slope, simply lean your core body a little forward and let gravity provide your legs the incentive required to move them faster. You know what I mean when you do it.
Considering some of these points before running will take a starting , self taught, runner, ahead in the achievement of better shape.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Learning the hard way can be fun!!!

So I decided I was tired of the white tile at the house and needed to replace it with something a little more modern and also more convenient, that doesn’t stain within seconds from cleaning it out. And, yes, you guessed right. I decided I would do it myself. That's where the fun starts...
First, the old tile has to come out. I took an old hammer and a 4-inch wide chisel I had in the garage and, after setting myself in comfortable shorts, short-sleeve shirt and sandals, I started chiseling away. It didn’t take me too long to realize I needed safety goggles (nothing got into my eyes luckily)
Second, I learned that YOU NEVER RUN YOUR FINGERS ALONG SHARP EDGES OF TILE. Some of those tile pieces do get really sharp. I realized this after seeing some blood drops on the floor and seeing my left index finger dripping. Not a bad cut, but enough to make it bleed. Deduction: it's better to wear gloves!
Third, a little after getting the gloves on, I noticed another dripping of blood. I looked and saw another cut, this time on the inner side of my left knee, about a quarter of an inch wide and deep enough to cut through the skin and cause more bleeding. Conclusion: better to wear pants!
This time I went ahead of the incidents and put on some shoes as well. I was covered. Ah, and good thing that the chisel has a hand-guard!!!
The next thing I learned was that a hammer-drill paired up with a tile chisel bit works wonders!!! Especially when having to take out the mortar underneath the tiles. That thing is hard and extremely difficult and extremely slow to take out.
The next two things are piece of cake: laying down the new tile (including the cutting, provided a wet tile saw is available of course) and then the application of the grout and its corresponding cleaning.
I ended up with calluses and busted blisters in my hands, cuts and scratches in hands and arms, and of course a cut on my left knee. I also got me a brand new hammer drill, wet tile saw, tile chisel bit, and a new floor that doesn’t stain as quickly as white ones. Ah, and a few hundred-dollar credit card debt. But it’s definitely worth it after all I learned and the satisfaction of having done this work all by myself. Now I only need to do the entry way, kitchen and two bathrooms!!!
Thank The Lord for power tools!!!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Does the iPhone impact physical performance?

I asked myself this question the other day when I went for a quick run. I decided to go to the trail running through some areas of town I. Fayetteville. I started near Gregg ave. and headed towards the mall area. It's a nice trail section as a good part of it is shaded by trees. A good part also runs along the creek so that provides some distraction.
The point is that I got tired very soon and didn't reach an hour of running. Rather only barely 40 min. I felt tired and one of the differences from my usual 1 hour runs was that I was carrying the iPhone I order to listen to music while exercising so the easy answer to the question why endurance was not as good as in other occasions was the gadget: when I carry it, I get tired more easily.
There was another detail about this run which is the heat. It was mid nighties when I did this running. Yes, it has to be the heat, ratherthan the gadget.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

alcohol doesn't mix with fasting and dexterity

The other day I was trying to head out of work a little early so that I could stop by the store, get a tumbler compost bin, and put it together before dark. I almost accomplished the task as I ended up needing about 10 minutes of artificial light on the patio to finish up the compost bin. What I learned though was the following, as, before setting myself to work on the assembly task, I decided to have a glass of this great sparkling wine...before having dinner and after having skipped lunch. Not a good combination. Read on the lessons I learned...
Lesson No 1. never skip lunch and drink alcohol (this one is already explained)
Lesson No 2. if you do, dont try to assemble anything that comes in a manual (the compost bin came in one big box, with 8 big pieces, including the stand for the bin, and a huge number of small pieces, from screws to metal and plastic washers, knots and bolts and plastic pins...they look in the hundreds!)
Lesson No 3. you can lose your mind as the usual spare parts increase in number! (boy there were lots of small pieces left after completion of the project! I should have noted everything i did and submit the manual with notes to the manufacturer...they could save lots in spare parts for the compost bin!