Run Happens

Musings of a serial runner...

Marathon Training While Travelling: Not for the Faint of Heart

Marathon Training While Travelling: Not for the Faint of Heart

We’re off to San Francisco! It’s the first week of my kick ass 24-week Marine Corps Marathon training plan, and I’m sitting on a plane headed to sunny San Francisco. I love that I will start this training season by logging miles in a new city though I am nervous travelling with my husband and three children in tow may derail my plans. (It won’t. They recognize how susceptible I am to grouchiness-caused-by-not-running syndrome. “No, mom. Please, please go for a run!”)  To avoid getting stymied during my first week without disrupting the family fun, I plan to stay on New York time. So I figure I will be up by 4 am- if I force myself to remain in bed. Parents will understand the early hours. Take heed young- twenty-somethings and those without children: once you have children never again will you sleep past 6:30 am. Never. Ever. Not on weekends or holidays or day’s off. It just won’t happen. It doesn’t matter if it is a Saturday or a Sunday or a Wednesday. Really, it is all the same day. You are awake. There is stuff to do. Laundry to be washed. Coffee to be made. Dogs to be walked. Coffee to be made. Did I mention coffee? I need so much coffee.

My children are 9,12, and 13 so in truth, they now sleep later than I do. All those years of having to get up early with them have me on a perpetual early morning program. Again, I speak to the twenty-somethings or those without children who silently read this and ask why I don’t just start sleeping in. If I did that — if I even could do that, actually, because I just automatically get up at that time now and I am not sure it is possible and believe me I’ve tried–  but if I did and were able to sleep I would forfeit any and all peace and quiet I enjoy in the early morning hours before my monsters…Errr I mean lovely children… wake up.  Plus in today’s world of overscheduled children (times three) I would have no time to get anything done. The driving from one sport to another or one therapy to another for some of my children eats up an entire Saturday. Also, I got a puppy (because not busy?) in October, and he loves to get up early and go for a little walk. Honestly, even when I am exhausted, spending time with Charlie is so therapeutic and calming I (hardly) mind the 6:30 wake up call. But again, I’d probably be up regardless.

How Long Is a Plane Aisle Anyway?

Do any other runners have trouble sitting on a plane for five and half hours? I can’t help but wonder how many repeats I could run up and down these aisles. Sigh. This is a long flight, and there are three hours left. For some reason, my nine-year-old, who would sooner lose a limb than told she has to shut off the television, does not want to watch TV. The joys of parenting never cease. Musings over.


Even Runners Need Strength Training for a Healthy Heart and Longer Life

Strength Training is Essential for Heart Health

Strength Training is Essential for Heart Health

Consistent cardio exercise strengthens the heart muscle and improves the body’s ability to utilize oxygen. Cardio-enthusiasts, however, may not be as healthy as they think unless they also include a solid, strength training regimen to their weekly line-up.

While the benefits of aerobic exercise are well-documented, the effects of strength training are a relatively new area of study. It wasn’t until 2007, the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association first issued strength training guidelines recommending a twice weekly practice. Two new studies examined the effects of muscle mass on longevity in adults. Both found adults who strength train tend to live longer. 

Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine, Penn State Health Milton S Hershey Medical Center and Columbia University, conducted a study to look at the long-term effects of strength training on adult mortality. The researchers examined data from the 1997-2011 National Interview Survey linked to death certificate data through 2011. The survey included more than 30,000 adults age 65 and older. During the survey period, more than nine percent of adults 65 years or older strength trained at least twice a week. The researchers followed the respondents for 15 years through death certificate data from the National Center for Health Statistics National Death Index. About a third of respondents died by 2011. Older adults who engaged in strength training at least twice a week had 46% lower odds of death for any reason than those who did not. They also had a 41% lower offs of cardiac death and 19% lower odds of dying from cancer. They were also more likely to be a healthy weight, engage in cardio exercise and abstain from regular alcohol and tobacco use.

To parse out whether strength-training had an effect on the adults who lived longer, given the overall healthier lifestyle of respondents who regularly strength-trained, the researchers controlled for physical activity level and people who reported strength training appeared to see a greater mortality benefit than those who reported physical activity alone. Hear that, my fellow cardio lovers?

It's never too late to start strength training for improved heart health.

It’s never too late to start strength training for improved heart health.

Previously Not So Healthy and New to Exercise? Stay Calm. There are Benefits for You Too

Those just getting on the exercise bandwagon, need not panic. Researchers from the David Geffen School of Medicine, a UCLA, found higher muscle masses and lower fat mass in patients with cardiovascular disease resulted in lower mortality rate in a new study published in the American Journal of Cardiology. The researchers found cardiovascular patients with higher muscle mass and low body fat had a lower mortality risk than those with other body compositions. The researchers examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999 to 2004, of 6,451 participants who had cardiovascular disease. Each subject was categorized into one of four groups:  low muscle/low-fat mass; low muscle/high-fat mass; high muscle/low-fat mass; and high muscle/high-fat mass.  Those with high muscle mass and low-fat mass had the most moderate risk of cardiovascular and total mortality.

The study was done in heart disease patients, as the “obesity paradox” was first described in this populations of patients, but the results are similar to those we have obtained for healthy individuals in previous studies,” says Dr. Preethi SriKanthan, head researcher of the UCLA study. “I advise patients to do 150 minutes a week of exercise and do 50% cardio and 50% resistance training. The reasoning behind this advice is that muscle mass is better increased with resistance training,” he says.

Marathoners should get at least two strength training sessions in per week. Make the time and reap the benefits.

More Shape Women’s Half Marathon Review


More Shape Women’s Half Marathon

Sunday, April 17th marked my third venture to the More Shape Women’s Half Marathon in Central Park. Three years ago, it quickly became one of my favorite races. The More Shape course takes you through two and a half loops of the very hilly Central Park in New York City. I usually do not like looped courses, but I happen to love this one. Central Park is beautiful and the weather on race day has yet to disappoint. The temperature typically reaches 50 degrees shortly into our start at 8:00 am. There are no bands but decent crowds. What makes this Half unique is that it’s a women’s only event. I love it.

The Start and Course Organization

The start is well-organized thanks to the New York Road Runners (NYRR) coral system. NYRR organizes corals according to predicted race pace.  There are many new runners in this race who may not otherwise know slower runners should take a spot in the back, not the front. Projected pace corals take care of that potential issue. If you are new to running, please try and give your best pace estimate. There were many new runners in my 8:30 coral who were planning to run a 10:00 or 10:30 pace which created a bottleneck for the first mile. If by race day, you find your pace will be slower than what you predicted, head to a coral further back. Thankfully, there are more than enough porta potties to accommodate the 7,500 women who registered for the race.


The landscape of the More Shape Women’s Half is a tapestry of women from all walks of life from those who are just beginning to create healthy habits to those who’ve been pursuing athletic goals for decades. There are young women running their first half, many middle of the packers, and older women too. Fast runner, slower runners, and many walkers smile and sweat for 13.1 glorious miles. Regardless of speed, or age, or experience, we all encourage one another to succeed. It isn’t uncommon to hear women who are racing take the time to tell one who is struggling up the next hill not to quit. “You can do it!” we cheer.

Following in the footsteps of elite athletes is always a thrill but perhaps, even more, exciting this year was running alongside, Deena Kastor, World Masters half-marathon record-holder, who ran for fun in the middle of the pack.  When do middle of the pack runners EVER get to run with elite athletes? What a thrill! If you need more motivation, just look around at the dads donning strollers who line the pathways to cheer on mommy.  On more than one occasion, you will catch a mother runner trotting over to her little ones to give them kisses. That one action not only says she loves them, but it inspires in her children, a lifetime of healthy, active living. What better gift can a woman give herself and her children but the gift of an active, healthy lifestyle?  Seriously, the vibe at this race rocks!

The Finish

Now it’s time to celebrate! Grab your medal, a bagel, an apple, or some pretzels and smile for the many photographers that greet you. Kick back and listen to live music. I look forward to running this race again in 2017. Thank you, More Shape Women’s Half and NYRR for putting on a great event!

@NYRR @moreshapehalf #WomenRuntheWorld

How Running Almost Ruined My Hair and What I Did to Save It

Runners Rock the Ponytail

I don’t have the best hair. It’s fine, easily knotted, and despite years of trying, impossible to grow past my shoulders. Regardless, I’ve come to accept my hair and dare I say most days I think it looks pretty good.  At least, I thought it looked pretty good until I went to my hairstylist a few months ago and she told me I was developing a bald spot in the back of my head. Say, what now?!

Turns out, while running may be great for your heart, lungs, muscles, and psyche what we do to our hair while running may wreak havoc on our locks. Let me explain. I wear my hair in a ponytail when I work out or when I run.  I am not alone. According to a recent online RocktheRun poll, a whopping 70% of respondents said they also rock a ponytail while running.  It keeps the hair out of our faces and off our necks. It looks cute. What could be the problem?

Pulling your hair into a ponytail does a few things. If you have fine hair, as I do, and even if you don’t, the pulling can cause breakage. This practice is especially true if you are a serial ponytail wearer.  I am a victim of this one, for sure. You can also develop thinning and potentially a bald spot where your ponytail sits on your head.

Don’t despair! I have a fix! My hairdresser’s comments sent my into a tizzy, and I became determined to find a solution while also keeping my ponytail during my run. I just don’t like headbands and question whether they stay on anyone’s head because they never stay put on mine. My hair isn’t thick enough or long enough to rock a braid either so that was out.

So how did I fix the problem and still keep my pony? I’ll tell you.

My strategy was two-pronged: change my hair care routine to repair the damage I’d done and make my hair stronger and find a safe way to rock a ponytail.

Daily shampooing is not a great thing. Of course, sweating six days a week makes it tough to skip a wash. It was the hardest adjustment to make in my new routine but totally worth it, I promise. When you wash your hair with shampoo, you strip the natural oils from it, and that makes your hair weaker.  Conversely, the conditioner helps to strength your ends and prevents damage.  It took a couple of weeks to adjust to my new schedule, but now I love it!

New Haircare Routine

Day 1: No washing. Use dry shampoo.

Day 2: Rinse in the shower and apply conditioner to ends.

Day 3: In the morning wash out the conditioner and then shampoo with a strengthening shampoo

Once a week I use a coconut oil treatment in my hair or Moroccan oil hair mask. I usually do this the night before a wash.  The coconut oil treatment is an easy kitchen beauty secret. Just apply unrefined coconut oil to your hair, concentrating on the ends. Wash out in the morning.

I added a daily vitamin that is supposed to strengthen my hair, and  I take with my morning breakfast, just in case.

The Hairstyle:

There are several options.

  • Rotate where you place your ponytail from back to either side so it isn’t always sitting in the same spot. This method doesn’t
    Rock the Run Blog Hair Pigtails

    Pigtails on the Run

    work for me because I don’t like to feel any hair on my neck when I run, but it might work for you so try it!

  • If your hair is long enough and thick enough, try making a braid.
  • Wear a hat and put your hair through the hole. I’ve found this strategy to be most helpful for me. It’s my go-to hairstyle for almost all my workouts.
  • Take your hair out of the ponytail as soon as you are finished working out and don’t place it in the pony until you are ready to workout.
  • Feel like a kid again and wear pigtails.

So how do I know my strategies are working? On a recent trip to my hairstylist, she commented that my hair felt thicker and looked better! I hadn’t told her of the changes I made until after that comment.  Hooray!

How do you wear your hair when you run? Do you think you’ll change it up? Comment below!

Looking to PR in Your Next Race? Proven Supplements to Boost Running Performance

supplement photo

Supplements Can Improve Your Run Performance

Four Supplements That Can Improve Your Next Run

Small changes can lead to big gains for runners looking to shave off a few minutes from their race time. The International Society of Sports Nutrition classifies supplements by Groups: Group A being those that have been shown to provide a sports performance benefit. Lucky for us there are several in this category that can help you gain a competitive edge when preparing for your next race. If you’re looking to hit a PR one or more of these supplements may help get you there. Do not take a supplement without first consulting your doctor and getting their approval.

Caffeine for Running Performance

Drink coffee for a performance boost.

Boost it: Your Energy

What it is: Caffeine

Caffeine can boost energy levels, alleviate fatigue and there is sound evidence that it may enhance performance for high intensity (think 1500 meter dash) and endurance sports (I’m looking at you, marathoners).  A study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, Effect of Caffeine on Sport-Specific Endurance Performance: A Systematic Review (1) found caffeine reduces fatigue in endurance athletes when taken before and/or during exercise in moderate quantities.

How You Take It:  Consume caffeine about an hour before your race to enhance performance. The effect tends to be dose dependent. A dosage of up to 400 mg is considered a safe limit for adults, half that for pregnant women. The average runner should consume at least 200 mg to receive a performance boost.

The Downside:   Caffeine can cause GI distress, so experiment before your race to avoid unwelcome surprises. The effect of caffeine decreases with routine use so abstaining for seven days before your race will show greater gains if you are a habitual java drinker.

Creatine for Sports PerformanceImprove It: Endurance Run Performance

What it is: Creatine 

Creatine is a naturally occurring protein. It fuels the body during high-intensity activities. It improves performance for weight lifters and sprinters, increases lean body mass, and reduces fatigue. Several studies show creatine supplementation improves endurance and anaerobic performance.

How to take it: Athletes take 4x5g doses per day for five days after which time they can take 1x3g per day for 12 weeks followed by a three-week break to prevent the body from adjusting to the supplement. There is no evidence that taking more than 20g during the loading phase has an increased benefit on creatine uptake or performance.

The downside: There have not been any reported side effects to taking Creatine.

Beta-alanine for Running Performance

Beta-alanine improves VO2 and lactate threshold.

Beat It: Reduce Lactic Acid Buildup 

What it is: Beta-Alanine 

What it is: Beta-alanine is a naturally occurring substance that reduces acidity in the muscle by helping to formulate carnosine, which is a muscle buffer. Increasing this buffering capacity can lead to increased performance, decreased fatigue, and strength gains. Its use is suited to several sports from sprinters to weight lifters to endurance enthusiasts.

How to take It: Athletes take 4-6g daily for 6-10 weeks. Improvement in performance is seen as early as two weeks and combining it with creatine may also be beneficial.

The downside: If you decide to add beta-alanine to your training regime, get ready to feel tingly. The only reported side effect of Beta-alanine is paraesthesia, a pins and needles feeling that can last upwards of an hour. The side effect decreases with continued use.

Beetroot Juice for Running Performance

Delay fatigue with beetroot juice.

Delay It: Fatigue

What it is: Beetroot Juice

What is unique about beetroot juice? Beetroot contains a high amount of nitrate, which is a precursor for nitric oxide. Consuming foods high in nitric oxide can lead to blood vessel dilation, increase in oxygen delivery, increases in nutrient delivery to your muscles and a delay in fatigue.

How much will it help? Don’t expect to shave a minute off your mile time just by downing the pink stuff. Reports suggest athletes can achieve a 1% performance improvement. Those who are PR obsessed, however, will gladly take the one percent!

Although many elites claim to see results from beetroot juice, more research needs to be done. According to a scientific review (2) written by Andrew Jones, The effectiveness of beetroot juice, “might well depend on factors such as the type of subject, including age, diet, and health and fitness status; the intensity, duration, and nature of the exercise challenge; and the dose applied and duration of the nitrate supplementation regimen. Time will tell.”

How to take it:  A typical dose is about 500ml of juice or 200mg of cooked beets. It can be taken daily for a week or one to two and half hours before you exercise or race.

The downside: Don’t freak if your urine or stool turns pink. It’s totally normal.


  1. Effect of Caffeine on Sport-Specific Endurance Performance: A Systematic Review Ganio, Matthew S; Klau, Jennifer J, Casa, Douglas J; Armstrong, Lawrence E; Maresh, Carl M
  2. Dietary Nitrate Supplementation and Exercise Performance Sport and Health Sciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences University of Exeter, St. Luke’s Campus, Exeter EX1 2LU UK, Andrew Jones, Sports Med. 2014;(Suppl 1):35-45

2,016 in 2016

I am so excited to take on the 2,016 miles in 2016 challenge! If you are anything like me, you’ve needed a race to keep your running on track. That can get costly. Don’t get me wrong; I am not swearing off races. Let’s not get crazy. But running 2,106 in 2016 will keep me active even in the offseason and motivated on those days when I rather book a massage, clean a toilet, or do anything other than run or exercise.

I set some parameters for myself to stave off an injury while working towards this goal. I am an injury-prone runner. Learning proper technique, form, and pacing has helped tremendously, but some of us are more biomechanically gifted than others. So I need to train smart to avoid being put on the sidelines. As such, warmup and cooldown miles count. If I feel like I am getting burnt out, I’ll count one running mile for every five that I bike. Elliptical miles count. My pie in the sky hope is that wiggle room will allow me to exceed 2,016 miles, but if not, it gives me enough of a cushion to attain the goal while still challenging me to keep moving.

What are your 2016 goals? Here’s to a fabulous year!