Posted by: Joe English | February 25, 2015

Movie Review — McFarland USA #running #moviereviews

running-advice-bugIt isn’t very often that a good movie about running comes along. McFarland USA is indeed a movie about running and it’s a very good all around movie too. I think you runners will enjoy it.

Disney's McFarland USA

Disney’s McFarland USA

McFarland is the underdog story of underdog stories, as a newly formed team of high school cross-country runners from an impoverished farming community face pretentious rivals in the first-ever California State Cross-country meet. Set in 1987 in the rural town of McFarland, California, we go along for a ride with a bunch of young runners that are long on natural talent and work ethic, even while they are not taken seriously by their rivals. The story is about forming a team, working hard and winning against all odds.

As with all sports movies, there’s more to McFarland than running. In truth, this story is maybe half about running. The other half of the movie is a story about cultural integration, family dynamics and understanding. This story is where we build our relationship with both the running coach and his students and that’s where this film really shines. McFarland is a picture with a lot of heart and its from that heart that we develop a deep affection for the runners and really pull for them as they try to win. We care about the team by the end of the film, because we care about the characters and really want them to succeed. This is the level on which McFarland succeeds as a movie as well.

McFarland features a somewhat typical fish-out-of-water premise to begin with: a teacher and coach moving to a small, rural town in which he and his family are pretty close to the only non-Hispanic residents. He’s blessed, in true “couldn’t have been written better if it were fiction” style with the last name “White” which quickly gets him the nickname “Blanco.” While the first act of the movie unfolds a little slowly, it’s nice to see that the outsider is not riding in on a white horse of infallibility. Quite the contrary, he’s the bud of many jokes and makes some big mistakes early on. This really is a story of learning that works both ways. By the end of the second act, this movie is hitting on all cylinders and we are invested and pulling for the team.

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Posted by: Joe English | February 20, 2015

Does masturbation impact running performance? #running

running-advice-bugEvery once in a while I get a letter or email from a reader that I just can’t set aside. I mean I love answering email, but there are questions and then there are questions and I’ve got a good one for you today. Now this question has to do with masturbation and running; I should start by saying, even before providing the question, that I have no “hands-on” knowledge or experience with masturbation myself. But then coaches many times have to provide advice about “gripping” subjects with which they themselves have not had to “wrestle.”

[NOTE: Sadly, there’s not much serious information out there on this topic, because most people that have written about it tend to want to only joke about it. I’ve already made my tongue-in-cheek comments and for the rest of this article I will try to actually answer the question.]

3D man near red question markThe question came from a young reader in another country and I will paraphrase:

“My question is how does masturbation affect my running. My legs tend to be sore after doing it. About 2K into my runs I start to feel better, but it does affect my times. I mostly try to refrain from doing this, but we all have those moments. Also, after masturbating, I have this uncontrollable urge to work out. I just want to do the right thing.”

So first of all, I think that I can start by saying that there is no direct impact between running fitness and masturbation. Fitness for running is developed through a mixture of cardio-vascular capacity and the muscular strength in the legs and other major muscle groups that power the body forward. We could start by saying that masturbation doesn’t really “tax” any of the major muscle groups used by runners, depending I suppose how you do it. Masturbation is mostly a hand-arm thing and running is mostly a leg-stomach thing. Perhaps excessive masturbation might give you carpal-tunnel syndrome in your wrist, but it’s not going to fatigue your legs much. Masturbation may in fact leave you feeling fatigued, but this has no impact on your running fitness. On other side of the coin, masturbation is said to relieve stress for many people, so it might actually help some people before a race, but then let’s not see anyone trying this in public.

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Why do you have to click to continue reading? Our blog was originally hosted here on WordPress and many, many people follow us here. So we post these excerpts as a courtesy to our readers but our main site is now our self-hosted http://www.running-advice.com which has way more stuff, including our video library, Amazon store and a guide to our more important articles. It is all still free.

running-advice-bugLet’s face it, when you travel your workouts often suffer. Travel screws with your daily routine, impacting things like your schedule, access to your favorite running routes or the gym equipment that you have at home. Having just come back from a quick trip to Asia, I have five more tips fresh in my mind that will help keep your workouts on track and make the whole experience better for you.

Exercises like push-ups can be done anywhere with no equipment

Exercises like push-ups can be done anywhere with no equipment

Tip 1 — Develop a backup exercise routine that you can do literally anywhere — Whether you find yourself in an airport, on an island with no gym or just holed up in a hotel room, sometimes you will have no access to any equipment, the outdoors or a safe place to get out for a run. In these cases, I always have a set of exercises that I can do without any equipment to get myself active anywhere. Here’s an example of full-body workout that you can do anywhere. Do three-to-four sets of the following exercises doing as many as you think is wise for your fitness. You may want to start at 10 each:
– Push-ups
– Sit-ups
– Burpees — this is a combination exercise that includes a squat, push-up, thrust and jump. Certain to raise your heart-rate immediately.
– Squats
– Side-lunges

You’ll be surprised how much of a workout you can get doing simple exercises like this, especially when varying the number and the pacing. You can also add weight by grabbing something in your possession when doing some of these; I have used my back-pack for instance when doing squats or side-lunges. Heck put your laptop or a heavy book on your chest to add weight to your sit-ups.

Some other good exercises that you could do here include box jumps (to a bench or even onto a hotel bed if you’re careful about not falling over backward) and pull-ups if you can find a bar of some kind. (NOTE from Joe: shower-curtain rods do not generally support body weight.)

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Why do you have to click to continue reading? Our blog was originally hosted here on WordPress and many, many people follow us here. So we post these excerpts as a courtesy to our readers but our main site is now our self-hosted http://www.running-advice.com which has way more stuff, including our video library, Amazon store and a guide to our more important articles. It is all still free.

running-advice-bugOver the past couple of seasons I have been asked a number of times if CrossFit would be a benefit to my runners and triathletes. Since I hadn’t tried it myself, I thought it was time to get some in-depth experience with it and provide you all the answer: will CrossFit benefit you as a runner or triathlete? Oh, the things I do for you, my dear readers. Over the course of the next few months I’ll be weighing in — both literally and figuratively — to tell you what I think of the whole experience.

I went into this with my mind open, ready for a new challenge and certain that I would be humbled a few times in the process. So far, I’m right on track.

Coach Joe at T9000 CrossFit

Coach Joe at T9000 CrossFit

According to Wikipedia, CrossFit is “promoted as both a physical exercise philosophy and also as a competitive fitness sport. CrossFit workouts incorporate elements from high-intensity interval training, Olympic weightlifting, plyometrics, powerlifting, gymnastics, girevoy sport, calisthenics, strongman and other exercises.”

From a methodology stand-point, CrossFit makes good sense for both runners and multi-sport athletes. CrossFit puts an emphasis on several things that benefit endurance athletes. First, CrossFit aims to strengthen the body, in particular the core, hips and legs. From a power production stand-point on the bike and run this should be a benefit to many athletes. In addition, CrossFit puts an emphasis on stretching and flexibility, especially around the hips. Being able to increase the range of motion of those tight runners’ hamstrings and quads will hopefully reduce injuries and lengthen strides. And finally, CrossFit includes a great deal of shifting between activities. Quickly moving from muscle-group to muscle-group — typically done under time pressure — is good to help triathletes with their transitions on race day.

My strategy was to get started: pick a gym, get myself enrolled and add this to my workout routine in the early “strength building” portion of my season. Ultimately, I wanted to add 2-3 CrossFit workouts to my week during the three months of January through March when I’m focused on building base and strength and my racing activity is moderately low. In my case, I traded off my 2-3 traditional “weights” workouts in the gym for my new CrossFit routine.

Picking out a “Box”
The first thing that you’ll need to do is find a CrossFit gym, which is called a “Box” in the CrossFit lingo. You may be surprised, or even a little over-whelmed with the number of choices you may have. In my local area there were almost too many to count. I visited a number of Boxes and decided based on three factors: 1) proximity to my house, 2) a structured introduction program and 3) a welcoming attitude. Thankfully, CrossFit T9000 in Hillsboro, happened to be the closest one to my house, but it also turned out to have one of the best introduction programs I experienced. There’s a lot to learn and many of the skills require a close attention to detail. Those Boxes that invest in you up front are helping you to avoid injury and get more out of the workouts once you get started.

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Why do you have to click to continue reading? Our blog was originally hosted here on WordPress and many, many people follow us here. So we post these excerpts as a courtesy to our readers but our main site is now our self-hosted http://www.running-advice.com which has way more stuff, including our video library, Amazon store and a guide to our more important articles. It is all still free.

running-advice-bugI was kind of intrigued when I was offered a chance to test the new Jabra Sport Pulse in-ear heart rate monitoring system. I wondered how well a heart rate monitor would work when placed in the ear rather than worn around the chest on a strap. And I wondered whether this would be a handy device to offer to runners that want to try a heart rate monitor integrated into their earphones. After about six weeks of use, I can say now that there are pluses and minuses to using a system like this. Let’s delve into this today.

Jabra Sport Pulse Bluetooth In-Ear Heart Rate Monitor

Jabra Sport Pulse Bluetooth In-Ear Heart Rate Monitor

As the name implies, the Jabra Sport Pulse is designed first and foremost to offer heart-rate monitoring. It is also a set of wireless Bluetooth earphones that can be used for listening to music. The product includes software applications for both Apple and Android to operate both of these functions with your Smartphone (more on this later). The head-phones act just like any other Bluetooth device in that you pair them with your phone and then can easily reconnect them by turning them on when you want to use them. Overall, set-up was a snap and very intuitive. Literally the only thing I couldn’t figure out in the first few days was how to turn them off after use. (I found out later that you hold down the center multi-function button until they power down.)

Once up paired with your phone, the Jabra Sport Pulse software app will launch when you connect to your phone. The interface is very intuitive. You can track running, cycling, walking, hiking and several other sports. The app prompts you in (in my opinion) a sultry female voice with a British accent, which I found charming at first and then later found sort of annoying. She pops in pretty often to tell you how far you’ve run and how fast, although it occurs to me that she never actually gives you your heart rate. Heart rate information is displayed on handy graphs showing the amount of work in different heart rate zones and all of your workouts are stored in the app for later reference. There is also a piece of software called Jabra Sound that acts as a music player should you need one. I found that the earphones worked just fine for streaming music from Pandora and listening to MP3s from my Amazon Music player.

Now let’s get down to the pros and cons of using this solution. First among the cons is that this is an in-ear solution, which means that it wouldn’t be allowed in many events such as triathlons where headphones are against the rules of competition. A second problem with the in-ear solution is when training in a group setting, you’ll have something in your ears. Just like any other headphone, people may avoid talking to you or you may have trouble hearing them when they do. When I used these headphones in my spin class environment I found myself pulling them out to talk to people, even when I wasn’t listening to music. You do still hear a fair amount of ambient sound with them inserted in the ear, but it’s hard to hear people talking in loud exercise-equipment rich environments just the same.

To continue reading on our main site, click here.

Why do you have to click to continue reading? Our blog was originally hosted here on WordPress and many, many people follow us here. So we post these excerpts as a courtesy to our readers but our main site is now our self-hosted http://www.running-advice.com which has way more stuff, including our video library, Amazon store and a guide to our more important articles. It is all still free.

running-advice-bugI get pretty excited when a movie comes along that incorporates running as one of its story elements. There have been some great movies about running, or that featured running heavily (e.g. Forest Gump), as well as some real dopes. After seeing the trailer for Unbroken (#UnbrokenMovie) I got revved up by a story about Olympic runner Louis Zamperini. I got out my notepad and headed for the multi-plex to see if you runners might like the film.

Jack O'Connell as Louis Zamperini in Unbroken Photo by David James - © 2014 - Universal Pictures

Jack O’Connell as Louis Zamperini in Unbroken Photo by David James – © 2014 – Universal Pictures

First things first, the trailer advertising the film is 2 minutes and 36 seconds long. A full forty seconds of the first minute features the running story. That’s more than a passing mention. You can certainly come away with the idea that this is a movie about running, but it really isn’t. It IS the story of an Olympic runner and it IS the story of war hero who suffers horrendous torture as a prisoner of war. However, out of the lengthy two hour and seventeen minute (2:17:00) movie only about 10-12 minutes is actually about running. (Side note: I find the timing interesting here in that Paula Radcliffe’s most recognized women’s world record in the Marathon is 2:17:18. Co-incidence? She actually ran her fastest marathon in 2:15:25, or about two minutes less than it took to tell this story.)

Back to the running. I’ll first give the filmmakers props for doing a nice job shooting the few running scenes in the film. Capturing runners is tough to do, because they’re moving — and they move fast. That means that you need to have the cameras in motion and keep them stable while doing so. Most movies about running minimize this by having the runners run past stationary cameras, which means you get quick glimpses of the action rather than sustained shots. But here, we see some nice sustained action shots of the runners racing around the vintage dirt tracks of the era. The long-spiked style shoes look authentic enough and leading actor Jack O’Connell looks right at home whizzing around the track.

So how do they do with the history as it relates to Zamperini’s running? Again, they do a passing job. They compress the story by sort of rolling a number of important races into one. The film shows Zamperini being spiked in the shin and then surging to win a high-school track competition. This more famously happened in a later competition when Zamperini ran his personal best mile in college at the University of Southern California (although it may have happened any number of times in that era.) Also, the announcer concludes the call of the race in the film by saying, “… and with that, he qualifies to go to the Olympics.” That’s not quite true. In this particular race, Zamperini did set a world interscholastic mile record of 4:21.2, but this did not qualify him for the Olympics. It wasn’t until two years later in 1936 that he qualified for the Olympics in what can only be described as one of his most amazing performances. In the 1936 Olympic Trials, Zamperini finished in a dead-heat tie with American Record Holder Don Lash in record high-temperatures. The race was so hot that several runners collapsed during the race. I really question why the writers would leave out this performance, but then with the film at 2:17:00 in length, we can probably guess.

To continue reading on our main site, click here.

Why do you have to click to continue reading? Our blog was originally hosted here on WordPress and many, many people follow us here. So we post these excerpts as a courtesy to our readers but our main site is now our self-hosted http://www.running-advice.com which has way more stuff, including our video library, Amazon store and a guide to our more important articles. It is all still free.

running-advice-bugI want to get behind the idea of New Year’s Resolutions, I really do. But to me the New Year’s Resolution is kind of the marketing hype of personal improvement. We see this in fitness centers and gyms being swollen with people for the first month of the year and then returning to their previous levels. We see this in the fact that many New Year’s resolutions get broken within weeks, days, or even hours of being made. We go through the act of thinking up New Year’s resolutions because people tell us we should and that’s quite simply the wrong reason.

4thofjulyNew Year’s resolutions are about effectuating change in our lives. Underlying the desire to try something new must be a motivation to change. We not only need to put a stake in the ground to get thinner, faster, eat better or drink less. We need to want to change the behaviors in our lives enough to overcome the habits that we’ve formed and to get to the end result we’re searching for.

Here’s the thing. We start the new year with all of the tools that we had, or didn’t have, on December 31st. If you are a person that knows how to effectuate change in your life then you can make changes that stick. If you don’t know how to make changes, or don’t have the motivation to really change, then you stand as much chance sticking to your resolutions as two dry pieces of paper sticking together in a desert.

The positive side to this is that we can make changes anytime. We don’t have to wait until December 31st to change a part of our lives. All we need are those tools that will help us stick to the changes that we want to make in our lives. I can give you three tips that will greatly help in setting and making changes in your life.

Tip 1 — Set a Specific Duration for your Goal – Experts say that if you can change a behavior for just 21 days, you’ll make a change to behavior that lasts. I like to make goals for one month, especially when trying something new. By staking a specific time to the change, such as trying a new diet or adding a new workout, you can mentally tell yourself that you are doing this or that thing for a short period of time and in that time you’ll be able to experience and see the results of the change. When you get a chance to feel the impact of the change on your life, it makes it easier to keep it going for another month and so on.

To continue reading on our main site, click here.

Why do you have to click to continue reading? Our blog was originally hosted here on WordPress and many, many people follow us here. So we post these excerpts as a courtesy to our readers but our main site is now our self-hosted http://www.running-advice.com which has way more stuff, including our video library, Amazon store and a guide to our more important articles. It is all still free.

Posted by: Joe English | December 4, 2014

Five Ways to Improve Your Vacation Workouts #running #marathon

running-advice-bugI’ll be honest. I have a love-hate relationship with vacations. I love going on vacation; I hate the fact that even though I am supposed to be so “un-busy” that I typically struggle to keep up my workouts when I’m away. Vacations are, by their nature, times when we are out of our routines. So in that vein, our workout routines tend to suffer. I just returned from a long vacation and I put some of today’s tips into practice for myself. I came back more fit than when I left. That makes my relationship with vacations a lot more loving.

Running in Costa Rica in 2012. Photo: Corrin Miller

Running in Costa Rica in 2012. Photo: Corrin Miller

Today I offer you five ways to help you make something of your vacation in terms of your fitness. Next time you travel, think about trying some of these fun alternatives to get in some quality workouts!

Tip 1 — Do something you can’t do at home — Vacations take us to far-flung places and new environments, so let’s get out there and try some new things folks! My current trip was to Hawaii and I have often dreaded running in the heat while there. This time I mixed it up and did a series of workouts centered around the breach. I did a number of open-water swims, taking advantage of the warm water that we don’t have at home in Oregon, and the soft sand of the beach. For my beach workouts I concentrated on technique and strength building (e.g. I slowed way down in the soft sand and focused on my form), to do something I just can’t do at home: run in the sand with waves splashing at my feet.

Tip 2 — Break up the routine — Runners are creatures of habit. I kind of cringe when I walk into a hotel fitness center and see people plodding along on a treadmill when they are in a beautiful place that warrants being outside. Use the fitness center for things like weight training or core work, but take advantage of the change in scene if you can. Exploring a new place is fun and it also is a change of pace from those routes that you run day in and day out back at home.

Tip 3 — Go short and fast — Is the family waiting for you to take them to Disneyland? ‘No time to go for a long run’ you say. Get out and do something short to get your engine running. You’ll feel better as you make your way through what will likely be busy days filled with lots of walking. I feel a lot better about myself doing even a 20 minute run than nothing at all. I think you will too.

To continue reading on our main site, click here.

Why do you have to click to continue reading? Our blog was originally hosted here on WordPress and many, many people follow us here. So we post these excerpts as a courtesy to our readers but our main site is now our self-hosted http://www.running-advice.com which has way more stuff, including our video library, Amazon store and a guide to our more important articles. It is all still free.

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA
@coachjoeenglish @runningadvice
http://www.running-advice.com

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