Saturday, November 29, 2008

Running In The Rain

Runners – those crazy people. Running around in traffic, in wind, in cold and even rain and snow! I feel the heat of the stares from people in cars whenever I’m running in foul weather.

Beyond wind, rain is probably my least favorite weather condition to be running or training in. If I wanted to get wet, I’d be in the pool! Anyway, that doesn’t mean I don’t run when it rains and you can take some steps to perform better in rainy weather.

Check out this post from Anne Valente to learn some tips for running in the rain --

Her first suggestion is the same that I would offer – layer your clothing. As it gets colder and it rains, it just gets colder. Wet and cold – generally not a good outdoors combination.

Invest in a good rain-resistant running jacket. Any good sporting goods store can suggest a jacket that will do the trick.

My other suggestion for running in the rain would be to throw extra clothes in your gym bag. If I run from my health club, I’ll need dry clothing to change into for either a weight workout or moving on to the rest of my day’s activities.

Soon, we won’t be talking much about rain where I live. It’s better to be writing about rain over snow any day!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lady Ironman

If you have the privilege of knowing my good friend Jennifer Veak, you know her energy is very infectious.

Jen has a knack for getting people to reach out in fitness endeavors in ways that folks never thought they could (For example, I competed in my first triathlon with Jen). It wasn’t until this year that she opted to put herself to a physical ultimatum – the Half-Ironman event.

After testing the waters in a variety of sprint and Olympic distance events, Jen decided it was time to do a Half-Ironman. She opted for the Pigman Half-Ironman in Palo, Iowa. She and her friend Heather Myer-Davis began training early this year for the Aug. 17 race. I see Jen probably four days a week, so she is not lying when she tells you that she’s up at 4 a.m. most days preparing and training.

She and her support team traveled the day before the race to Cedar Rapids. Loaded with bikes, goggles, wetsuits, shoes, gels and other gear, Jen and Heather watched the Olympics as they waited in anticipation for the race. “I was still a bundle of nerves when I woke up that day. I had to tell myself, ‘Settle down, Jen. This is what you’ve trained for.’” Jen’s husband Ed had given her a wetsuit for her birthday, so she was excited to reach the race site and find the water temperature at 77 degrees – just enough to allow the suits for use in the race!

Even though she stood with 700 people at the start of the race, she felt lonely. The threat of the swim in a triathlon can be described as “waiting in fear” because of the mob scene that ensues in open water. But with a “time trial” start, every person started singly every 10 seconds as opposed to a group start. “I could actually breathe during the first 10 minutes of a triathlon event and this made me feel calm and comfortable with long, lean and smooth strokes,” she said. The best thing about a triathlon is exiting the water, but you have to consider that 56 miles on a bike and 13.1 miles on foot still await you. But Jen was up to the task. “The bike went well, but I wanted to get off at mile 36. After eating a peanut butter sandwich and a gel, I felt better, but I was dreading the run,” she said. “You should try eating a peanut butter sandwich on a bike sometime!”

It was warm by the time the run approached and fatigue eventually set in, but Jen is not one to give up and she forged onward. “The sun was beating down. There were hills and I had to walk some,” she said. But there were little details that helped push her along. She stopped at each aid station for water and gel. She stuffed ice down her sports bra and listened as the cubes “clinked” together. It’s the little things that keep you moving forward in a grueling event like this. “When I heard the announcer at the finish, I thought, ‘I’m almost done; just get done,’” Jen said. “So I did.”

After six hours and 15 minutes, Jen completed the race. She was thrilled. Believe it or not (I do because I saw Jen very shortly after the event), she was back to her normal self right away. “After two hours, I was back to myself again.”

When she finished, she thought, “never again.” But “never again” is not permitted in Jennifer Veak’s psyche. Now, you just need to ask her, “When again?” “I’m ready to start training for the 2009 race now,” she will answer.

I’ll be taking the next few days off for the holiday. If you think of any other individual inspiring stories you’d like to share, send me an e-mail at and I’ll write about it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Is A 10-Minute Workout Going To Net Results?

Although I’m not a health expert and I did not sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, my thought is that a 10-minute workout every day is not enough to produce significant results.

This was an interesting issue posed in a recent article written by Megan K. Scott of the Associated Press published in a variety of venues (here’s a version published on the website) --

Jillian Michaels, a trainer on the NBC hit television show, “The Biggest Loser,” said in the article, “Ten minutes? Forget it. What are you going to burn?”

I tend to agree with Michaels. In my experience, 25 to 30 minutes of vigorous cardio exercise at least four times per week is probably more where you need to look, depending on your goals. When I first decided to commit to regular exercise back in 1997, my goal was to lose weight. I ran 25 to 35 minutes four to five days per week. After six months of this activity, I had lost 25 pounds. By gradually increasing my activities to include training for running and triathlon events, I have lost an additional 15 pounds.

Most people are seeking significant weight loss by taking on exercise activities. The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association recommend 30 minutes of moderately intense cardio activity per day, five days a week or 20 minutes of vigorous activity (i.e. running) three days a week, while strength training should be done twice a week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that regular 60 to 90-minute daily workouts may be necessary to realize goals --

Everyone is different, but let’s be realistic. 10-minutes daily per week is most likely not going to bring desired results of a new personal best time or significant weight loss. While it surely represents the start of a transition to a better lifestyle, you should consult with your physician to identify health activities that are best suited for your health situation. Your doctor will sometimes recommend trainers with whom you can work with to get started on the right path with your new health plan!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ottumwa’s “Marathon Maniac”

I know someone who did two marathons in two days. Yes, you read that correctly – TWO MARATHONS IN TWO DAYS!
My friend, Kriss Uehling, from Ottumwa was training for the Siouxland Lewis & Clark Marathon and became inspired through Dean Karnazes’s book “Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days-and How You Can Achieve Super Endurance”. It made her curious to see if she could finish two marathons in two days. She was familiar with the Des Moines Marathon course that followed the day after the Siouxland race. So, she decided to make her Boston-qualifying time at Siouxland, then enjoy the Des Moines race at an easy pace to finish off the goal. Following an extra nudge from her biggest cheerleader and husband, David, the plan was set!

Kriss finished a personal best at Siouxland in 3:56:17 to qualify for Boston. Following a celebration, a plaque (and $50!) for taking third in the master’s women’s division and an ice bath, it was off to Des Moines. Strolling to the packet pickup prior to the Des Moines race, I ran into David and learned of Kriss’ amazing plan.

Marathon Maniacs is a group dedicated to runners who run multiple marathon events over varying periods of time. Kriss sought inspiration from this group and met several “maniacs” along the Des Moines course. Her conversations with a Seattle woman who was one of the original members of the group and a 67-year-old gentleman who was finishing his third marathon in 14 days carried her through the race. Despite some fatigue, Kriss finished Des Moines with a respectable 4:39:39 time. Kriss cried with joy and pain with her family at the finish as David had secretly primed the race announcer to make an announcement about her two-day trek as she crossed the finish line. She’s an inspiration to all athletes in Iowa. “Things like this remind me to stay open to my dreams. I'm not sure who said this, but I like it ‘People don't grow old. When they stop growing, they become old,’” Kriss says.

She hasn’t worn her new Marathon Maniacs singlet yet, but Kriss isn’t one to turn away from a challenge. The self-proclaimed “marathon maniac” says she plans to run Boston in April for a second time in her career. “The Boston Marathon is such a special event. I was always pinching myself to make sure it was real, then tearing up when I realized it,” she said.

More than anything, Kriss just wants to inspire other runners to reach for their dreams. This “maniac” is doing one heck of a job of setting an example!

You can learn more about the Marathon Maniacs group at Finally, I’ll be taking the next few days off. Look for my next post when I return from traveling next Monday. I’ll put some posts up before Thanksgiving, then I’ll take a few days off at that time as well.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Need Coaching Topics!

I haven’t written much about any coaching topics and that bothers me.

Of course, this is my “off season” time of year. But that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking ahead to baseball season.

If you have any coaching topics you would like me to address, please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to write about it. You may also e-mail me at I will be writing about volunteering again as Holiday Park Baseball Club will be running ads in the Des Moines Register to recruit coaches and volunteers in December. We will be offering a discount for “early-bird” registration through Jan. 1, 2009. Check it out at

This is a perfect time of year to think about volunteering for a spring or summer youth athletic program. Check with your local youth baseball or softball league organization. This is also a perfect time to consider volunteering for youth basketball or soccer. Many local YMCA programs conduct spring soccer and basketball programs. This is a perfect way for you and your child to become involved in organized youth sports’ activities.

Youth athletic programs as SO much in need of quality volunteers. Consider becoming a part of this rewarding experience.

I will get back to writing about winter fitness, but I'll break things up with some other topics as well. Additionally, I'll be taking some time off this weekend due to a trip and later the following week for Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Winter Exercise Routines – Part II

You don’t have to move too far from home for great winter fitness ideas. Take a cue from “Jack The Dog” on his treadmill --

This was too cute to pass up, but all kidding aside. You may choose to invest in fitness equipment for your home, but “invest” is a good word here. Quality equipment is not inexpensive. It is not uncommon to spend thousands of dollars for a quality treadmill. My advice to you would be to do some extensive research and shopping before settling in toward a purchase in this area.

Some other ideas that might be less expensive than investing in home fitness equipment –

The Wii Fit -- is fast becoming a popular indoor fitness activity among adults.

What about some video workouts? Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons made fortunes with these workouts and many of them are worthwhile. Here’s a link to a library of workout videos available for purchase online -- Heck, even Angelina is working out with video, check it out --

If you don’t want to invest in videos, consider FitTV -- -- if it’s available through your cable or satellite provider. I found an early-morning program on FitTV to be useful for me in a training program I was pursuing two years ago.

Don’t despair – even though it’s cold outside, you can still stay in shape inside. I have some other thoughts that I will share on staying in shape for the winter as we move forward into the season.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Winter Exercise Routines – Part I

It’s getting cold outside – sometimes really cold!!!

Particularly if you live in Iowa. And if it’s cold outside, most of us don’t like to take our training and fitness activities outside to the cold.

Don’t despair. Treat this as an opportunity to add some variety to your fitness routine.

I must admit before writing further that my inspiration for this entry came from This is a GREAT online community for learning about new fitness ideas. Just log on and it will become addicting if you like to discuss fitness. It’s truly a great reference.

So, looking for a new way to keep in shape while it’s cold? Have you joined a health club? January is the best time to join one because they are all offering discounts to entice those looking to meet their “New Year’s resolutions.” Joining a health club will offer you a wide variety of cardio and weight training activities.

What about hiring a personal trainer for a few sessions? Personal trainers are great for bringing new training exercises to your routine. Most health clubs have good personal trainers on staff available. Check out this eHow article about how to start the process of hiring a personal trainer --

Have you ever done a group fitness class? After you join your new fitness club, ask about what group fitness activities might be right for you.

These are just a few ideas to consider if you’re more comfortable leaving home to work out. In my next entry, I’ll discuss fitness activities you can do if you prefer not to leave your home.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Start Your Own Running Group

If you're like me and you enjoy running, why not share the experience with others? (Trust me, it makes the time go faster!)

I just teamed up with one of the fitness instructors at my health club to start a group with two running days -- Friday and Saturday. A short, e-mail poll of a number of our members revealed that some runners prefer a long Friday run and others prefer a long Saturday run. Some nasty weather has challenged us, but last Friday found four of us eagerly enjoying some very windy Iowa weather for a nice six-mile run. Even though I'm the "Friday guy", I joined the Saturday group this past week for a 12-mile run.

I've written a lot about the benefits of hooking up with "workout buddies" and starting a running group supports this argument. Provocative conversation about children, family, work and -- yes, even politics -- makes the experience that much more enjoyable and fulfilling. You find anticipating these runs more often because you're sharing time with like-minded individuals.

If you’re looking for a bigger group to make connections, check out the Capital Striders in Des Moines at This is a very active organization that hosts a wariety of group running events.

Take the first step and contact a group of your running friends about starting a group today. Make this a priority -- all it takes is an e-mail to get started!

Monday, November 10, 2008

More On Injury Prevention

Nobody I know who is involved in fitness or training likes to be laid up with an injury. In fact, most active people I know get pretty frustrated when an injury occurs.

A few weeks back, I wrote about what to do in the case of injury. But what steps can you take to avoid injury on the front end? Well, I think I may have some helpful information. I stumbled upon an article about a book written by an accomplished British distance runner, Sam Murphy, that discusses proactive injury preventing in-depth. The book, "Running Well", appears to be very informative. Check out – at

Additionally, Dagny Scott Barrios, a regular contributor to Runner's World, published a book titled "The Runner’s World Guide To Injury Prevention". I have this book at home and it is loaded with helpful injury prevention information. If you don't think you have time to read Scott Barrios' book, then check out her article "Safe and Sound" at

These may be additional helpful references in the constant pursuit to avoid the "injury bug".

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Tip For Relieving Knee Problems

I’ve written a lot about addressing injuries as this is consistently an issue for active people.

This tip seemed to make sense – run backwards as a means of recovering from a knee injury.
Martha Edwards wrote about this practice on the site --

When running backwards, you want to make sure you have a wide area free from obstructions. Lean forward and keep your nose over your toes. Use your arms to help keep your balance.

Try this training exercise – it might just do the trick for those wobbly knees.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Avoiding Raceday Mistakes – Part II

You can literally find a distance race in some prominent destination on every weekend of the year and then some. With the power of the Internet, it’s fairly easy to find race suitable to your goals in a destination that’s manageable to reach.

So, if you’ve found that “dream race” you want to do, let’s first make sure we don’t stumble before the starter fires the gun.

Have you done any training homework? If you’re thinking about doing a marathon, I highly recommend you read Hal Higdon’s Marathon – The Ultimate Training Guide before making any expensive registrations or travel plans. This book is the most complete reference for learning all of the issues attached to competing in distance races. Log on to to learn more.

Have you identified a training plan? There are so many plans available via the Internet, take advantage of the experience and expertise available from the world community of distance running. Most of it is FREE!

Have you trained yourself to go to the bathroom? This may sound silly, but you don’t want to be hampered by this issue while you’re competing in a half marathon or marathon. Train yourself to go to the bathroom at favorable times through your training.

Have you considered how you’re going to hydrate and feed yourself during the race? Many beginners don’t realize your body needs to replenish some vital elements during the course of a distance run. You’ll need to hydrate during the course of the race and you may need some instant carbohydrates. Jelly beans and gels are easy to transport and digest during the race. Various brands are available at your favorite fitness store. Try them out before the big day.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Avoiding Race Day Mistakes – Part I

We’re in the thick of distance race season. Whether you’ve considered a fall marathon in the Midwest or a half marathon in a warmer weather destination, learn from others and avoid some common race day mistakes.

For starters, check out Christine Luff’s recent post on on some very common problems to avoid in preparation for your raceday --

Going out too quickly too early, wearing gear or shoes you’ve never worn on race day, starting in the wrong position, not properly warming up and not eating properly are just a few of the mistakes that can be made for race day. Don’t let these simple issues that can be easily addressed ruin your hard work preparing for a big race. In my next entry, I’ll offer some other tips for big race training and preparation.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Maybe It’s Time To Try One Of Those Fitness Classes

While we may be “fitness warriors”, the extreme elements of winter in the Midwest often make us “fitness wimps” and force us inside for our training activities.

Moving your training activities inside offers a great opportunity to vary your routine with some fitness classes. Most health clubs offer a tremendous variety of fitness classes from spinning to yoga to pilates. There are numerous aerobics classes with varying levels of activities along with lower impact “water aerobic” programs if your facility has a pool.

Jennifer Veak is a fitness instructor at Prairie Life Health and Fitness in West Des Moines. She promotes the value of participating in group fitness. “It’s a great opportunity to train muscles in your body that may not be receiving as much attention from your regular fitness activities,” Veak says.

Veak also sees the value of meeting new like-minded fitness gurus through participation in classes. “So many of my students have gone on to train and socialize together that group fitness really can be rewarding and a lot of fun,” she said.

Next time you’re at your health club, ask for information about its group fitness program offerings.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

“Running Up The Score” Not Sportsmanlike

No matter what the level, “running up the score” is just plain unsportsmanlike.

I used to cringe at quotes from the legendary Ohio State football coach, Woody Hayes. In a 1968 game, already up 42-14, Ohio State scored another touchdown. Hayes called for a two-point conversion and they converted. When asked why he did it, Coach Hayes said, "Because the rules won't let you go for three.”

So, let’s say Ohio State clobbers Michigan 63-3. Coach, if you think somewhere down the road when they have the opportunity to embarrass you, you can be rest assured they will.

In youth sports, “running up the score,” is particularly unnerving. In the pre-high school and high school sports’ levels, “mercy rules” have their place. These rules ensure a quick finish to games that accomplish nothing, but to demoralize those teams on the receiving end of a drubbing. There can often be such great disparity among teams at this level, a “mercy rule” really makes sense.

While there is really no place for “mercy rules” at the collegiate and professional levels, it doesn’t mean you need to show a lack of class by running up the score on your opponent. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like to see their team win big. However, paybacks can be tough and all sports fans remember class when they see it.