What I Know About Running for Beginners

running-for-beginnersI’m not a great runner by any means. But what I am is a moderately good runner who only began running somewhat consistently close to 2 years ago. My running technique has gotten better over time, or so I hope it has and I feel like I can provide some insight into running for anyone who is considering getting started. Here is what I know about running for beginners from a beginner (myself). 1.    Embrace the suck. Running sucks. It sure does. Anyone who says running doesn’t suck is some kind of genetic freak. I’ve been running for almost an entire year on the running path around my neighborhood that is 2.5 miles – and that 2.5 miles sucks just as much today as it did a year ago. The hills are not easier and the distance is not closer. The only thing that is awesome about running is how good you feel once you finish it. And that’s not because running feels amazing, that’s because you don’t have to run anymore for the time being. My suggestion is to embrace the suck and remember how good it is for your body to get in a run no matter how long you run for. A great Pinterest quote that comes to mind is “No matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch.” I run to burn calories and for heart health – not because running is thrilling. It’s just not.

Disclaimer: those who love running -  I envy you. If I loved running maybe I'd do it way more often.

What I know about running for beginners2.    Get good gear. Your shoes can make all the difference between a good run and a crappy run. Most avid runners get new shoes every 300-400 miles. My suggestion is to find a great pair of running shoes that fit your foot and your arch. Go to a running store for help – they will measure your foot, analyze your steps and make suggestions.

Other gear you should look into for cold weather are: gloves, beanie cap or headband (to cover your ears), neck warmer or scarf, base layers, compression pants, cold weather tops, tops and pants with pockets (to store a key and some tissues), a windbreaker or other warm coat, etc.

Other gear you should look into for warm weather are: quality sports bras, socks, running shorts and/or spandex shorts to avoid chafing, sweat wicking tops and water bottle holders, clothing with pockets to hold a key.

Having the right gear for running will make your life easier when it comes to getting on the road (or treadmill) for an extended period of time. Plus, if you feel good in your clothes you’re more likely to actually wear them and workout.

3.    Cars do not look out for runners. Ever. Even in my geriatric filled gated community the stop signs are most often ignored and cars have had to be dodged. Then the driver looks at me as if I did something wrong. Your best bet is to assume they are not going to stop and to look out for yourself. Run against traffic and stay on sidewalks as often as possible. Find a route that has little to no blind bends, well lit and one that is not closed off to the public.

4.    Change your attitude and just do it. If you tell yourself that you don't want to go for a run, you won't. But if you just do it without thinking about it you’re more likely to get it done and feel good about it afterward (even in the cold weather). Whether you get up early or run in the afternoon, the key is to put on your gear and go before your brain has time to figure out what you’re doing.

What I know about running for beginners5.    Don’t put so much focus on your breathing. There are plenty of running experts who recommend breathing in on certain steps and exhaling on others. But what I find is that when I consciously think about my breathing, it then goes out of rhythm and I become out of breath. Often times your breathing will naturally fall in line with your gate and it’s at that time you should just let it be. If you do find yourself out of breath or unable to breath well during a run, you can then focus on various breathing techniques like the ones found here and here. My biggest suggestion, don't ever hold your breath - that holds true for any exercise you take part in.

Remember, my tips are for beginners from a beginner. These are all real world experiences and thoughts I have while running. If you want to start running to burn calories and better your health, then just getting out and going is good enough. But if you’re someone who wants to run marathons and compete in races, you will want to do further research in to how to make the most out of your running experience.

What other tips do you have for beginner runners?

Dilemma: Family vs. Fitness

Today I'm getting on an airplane to Orlando for my cousin's wedding. I'm really excited to be going home for the weekend and to spend time with my entire family, many of whom I've not seen in a few years. On top of that, Rich is coming with me - it's the first time he'll meet my extended family beyond my parents, brothers and sisters. And on Saturday we're going to spend the afternoon with my sister, nephews and brand new niece. That should be exhausting and fun at the same time. Little kids are not usually my thing, but I'm their aunt and I really want them to know and like me. So here's my dilemma - do I take time out to myself Saturday and/or Sunday morning to get in a workout or a run?

The little angel on my right shoulder is telling me to take a break for the weekend and enjoy the time with my family. On the flip side, the neurotic little training obsessed devil on my left shoulder is telling me I've got to get in a workout and burn some calories - especially since I'll probably have some cake at the wedding. Not to mention, I've been doing so well with consistency and I've lost about 6 lbs in 6 weeks. It's no wonder I'm secretly worried one weekend off of my healthy eating and workout routine will ruin my progress and put me back a few steps.

Common sense, and science tells you that our bodies need a break from exercise every few days for optimal repair and recovery. Everyone knows this. I know this. But the more is better mentality always seems to take over. Even my dentist told me I was brushing my teeth too hard. Too hard? I didn't know there was a too hard for brushing your teeth. You'd think that brushing harder would remove more plaque and debris. Apparently you can brush away your gums if you brush too hard. And those you can't grow back, unfortunately.

The same can be said for training too much or too often. Over-training and Overreaching are real. So why is it that I can't seem to take a break, even for a little extra time with my family? Deep down I know my body needs the break and my mind needs the time with my family. So what do I do?

Right now I can't really answer that because I've not made a clear decision. My plan was to play it by ear. Bring along 1 or 2 sets of workout clothes and a pair of running shoes. If I find time for a run or to visit a local CrossFit gym for a drop-in WOD then cool, but if not, there's no loss - my body will respond that much better when I do get back to my training on Monday. And any weight I may put on will most likely be water weight and will come right off once I get back to my routine. The world won't end if I miss a workout - so we'll see what happens and I'll keep you posted.

Do you ever find yourself putting fitness before your friends and family? How do you find balance?

Why You Should Buy an Indoor Rower

With snow season creeping in soon I started to feel like I needed to find an indoor alternative to my early morning run. I wanted something that wouldn’t break the bank and that wouldn’t take up much space but had an equally impressive calorie-burning capacity as a morning jog. Shaun T’s Insanity workout crossed my mind, but then I thought I’d prefer not to dance around in front of the television in my socks at 6 am. Purchasing a treadmill is an option, but they tend to be bulky, noisy and expensive. And what happens when your treadmill breaks down, how the heck do you get someone in for maintenance?

I’ve been looking at indoor rowers for about a year now. Searching online for used ones and figuring out if it’s worth it to purchase new. Before I started CrossFit about 1 ½ years ago I had never used a rower before. And within any random CrossFit workout, you might find a short (or long) row intertwined. Rowing is an intense cardiovascular workout, and mixed in with CrossFit exercises makes it even more extreme. Ultimately my mind was made up and it was time to pull the trigger. So we did it, we purchased a Concept 2 rower!

Here’s why you should buy one too!

1. Your machine will last forever. I got a used rower off Craigslist that is about 10 years old. It rows just as good, if not better than the brand new models at my gym. If you go with a Concept 2 then you’re definitely purchasing a high quality product. “Concept 2 rowers are built to last.” Whether brand new or used, your purchase is for the long haul. You can find a new rower for about $950 including shipping. Check Ebay and Craigslist often as we got ours for a measly $300! Well worth it.

2.  Work every muscle group at once. Simple enough – rowing requires pushing with your legs and pulling with your arms and back. Don’t forget about stabilizing your core for a strong pull. Just a few minutes of easy rowing is enough to get you huffing and puffing. It’s an excellent total body workout.

3. Burn loads of calories. Using your entire body to row exercises not only your muscles but also your cardiovascular endurance making you a calorie-burning furnace.

4. Cut your workout time in half. A 10-15 minute row session is plenty to get your metabolism revving. Amp it up for a longer duration and a bigger calorie burn.

5. Options are endless. Hop on the rower any time of the day or night for an intense full body workout; or switch things up with a CrossRow style workout incorporating bursts of rowing with other exercises like kettlebell swings, squats, pushups, burpees, box jumps, lunges, and the list goes on. You can even workout during a storm because indoor rowers don’t require electricity.

I’m excited for the winter season to begin. What excites me most is knowing that I have no more excuses to skip my morning workout. No matter sleet, rain, snow or ice – row on!

To find out how I kept up with my workouts during Hurricane Sandy, check out my guest blog post at UCanRow2.com

Do you have a favorite indoor workout? Tell your story and leave a comment below.

Deck of Cards Workout


Hurricane Sandy wiped out power left and right. It's not likely I'll be able to make it to the gym in the next day or so, so I thought I'd do a Deck of Cards workout and share it with all of you. This workout can be done with a partner or alone and the only equipment you need is a deck of cards. Here's how it works:

Shuffle the deck of cards well, including Jokers. Each suit represents a different exercise. And the number on each card represents the # of reps you'll do for that particular exercise and that particular card. You can choose whatever exercises you'd like and switched things up even more if you have any equipment on hand. But if not, the basic workout is as such:

Spades =  Squats Diamonds = Situps Clubs = Pushups Hearts = Mountain Climbers Jokers = 10 Burpees Royal cards = 10 reps Aces = 1 rep for beginners and 11 reps for intermediate/advanced trainees

Partner Workout Directions:  Stack deck of cards face down. Partner turns over one card and performs exercise and reps represented on card. Alternate between partners without resting until deck is finished. When you reach a Joker, both partners perform the exercise; both must complete the exercise before moving on to the next card.

Solo Workout Directions:  Stack deck of cards face down. Turn over a card and perform exercise and reps represented on card. Continue with no rest until deck is finished.

Up the intensity with these variations: Cards as stated above. Jokers = run 1 mile Cards as stated above; Hearts = Burpees and Jokers = run 400 meters or row 500 meters Cards as stated above; Hearts = Burpees and Jokers = 50 Double Unders or 150 jump rope Cards as stated above; Hearts = Handstand Pushups

Have you ever done the Deck of Cards workout? If so, what are your favorite exercises to use?

3 Fat-Burning Cardio Workouts to Throw in to Your Routine

Plain old cardio can become monotonous and boring. Running on the treadmill or climbing the Gauntlet (step mill) to nowhere is not my idea of fun.  Burning calories is important so skipping cardio is not an option. And whether you prefer getting in your cardio sesh before the sun has a chance to rise, or you fit it in after your evening workout, switching it up often is the secret to breaking cardio boredom.

The best thing about cardio is that you can find ways to get it in without equipment or a gym, so there's no excuse. Here are 3 high intensity cardio workouts for you to try. Challenge yourself, you may be surprised at what you can achieve.

1.  Tabatas.  Tabatas are a Japanese form of high intensity interval training (or HIIT). Your basic interval is a period of all out effort, followed by a short rest. For instance, a simple interval would be 1 minute of running followed by 30 seconds of walking at a quick pace. Intervals are great for fat loss because they burn more calories in a shorter period of time, which means more time for you to spend at home relaxing. The freedom in Tabatas is that you can choose whatever exercises you'd like and the amount of exercises you perform. The interval timing of Tabatas is 20 seconds of all out effort (as many reps as possible) followed by 10 seconds of rest. You'll repeat each interval for a total of 8 rounds (4 minutes). Once you've reached the last round, you'll then move on to the next exercise, and so on and so forth until you've completed the workout. If you choose 4 exercises, you've got a 16 minute workout of nothing but high intensity intervals. Give it a try, it will be over before you know it!

Basic Tabata (or CrossFit's "Tabata This")

8 rounds each of the following - 20 seconds work/10 seconds rest: - Pushups - Pullups - Situps - Squats

2. Rowing Intervals.  Ok I lied, you'll need equipment for this one, particularly a rower. This machine is often overlooked at the gym and left to collect dust. Dust that thing off and give it some use! There's not much explanation involved here, hop on and start rowing. One thing you will notice is that watching the meters you've rowed go up is like watching water boil - it seems to take forever to reach your desired distance. Rowing is a calorie blasting cardio workout and a great stray from the norm. Here's a simple interval workout to try. Aim for 6-8 intervals to start. Try to increase the amount of intervals you do every session.

Rowing Intervals - set the rower lever to level 5 - press the menu button - select "custom workout" - choose "30/30 intervals" - perform 6-12 intervals, rowing for 30 seconds at all out effort and resting for 30 seconds

3. Running Intervals. As I mentioned before, intervals work wonders on fat loss. Incorporate them in to your workouts wherever you can, including running. Here's a challenging interval workout you can do outdoors or on the treadmill:

Run for 5 minutes 10 Burpees 10 Squats 10 Pushups Run for 5 minutes 10 Burpees 10 Squats 10 Pushups Run for 5 minutes 10 Burpees 10 Squats 10 Pushusp Run for 5 minutes 10 Burpees 10 Squats 10 Pushups Run for 5 minutes

What's your favorite cardio workout?  Do you prefer outdoors or in?

3 Reasons to Do Morning Cardio


Getting up in the morning is rough, especially when you know you have a long day of work ahead of you.  Who in their right mind would want to get up earlier than necessary to get ready for work?  I’ve always said, if you want something bad enough, you’ll do what you need to do to get there.  And if that means waking up 45 minutes to an hour early every day for a morning cardio sesh then that’s what you’re going to do.  For those of you that love the snooze button, this article is for you.  Here are 5 reasons to get up before the birds for morning cardio: 1.    Feel the Energy Buzz:

Getting up early and starting with a 30 minute run awakens the senses.  Accomplishing more before 7:30 am than most is something you should feel good about, and the high you get from your run will boost your energy for the start of your day.

2.    Boost Your Metabolism:

Whether you get up and go or have a bite to eat beforehand, any form of cardio will boost your metabolism.  Aerobic exercise in general will keep your body burning calories for hours after you’ve finished your session.  Even if you’re not trying to lose weight, cardio is a great way to build your fitness and stay healthy.

3.    More Time for Yourself:

People often complain there’s not enough hours after work to get a cardio workout in.  Waking up early to get it done gives you the rest of the day to do what you wish without having to worry about when you’re going to hit the gym or the trails.  You’ll have more time in the evenings to lift weights, make dinner, prep for the next day, enjoy some ‘me’ time and see your family.

One way or the other, cardio is a good thing in your life.  If you’re not a morning person, become one – you’ll reap the benefits of a speedier metabolism, more energy for the day, and more time for yourself!

Are you a morning person?  When's your best time to get a cardio workout in?