Socks…

Yes, those things you wear on your feet. We tend to take them for granted most of the time, but socks play a crucial role in running. Socks can be made of a variety of materials, and can be varying in sizes. There are multiple options for casual wear, business attire, and yes, even for running! However, choosing the correct kind of sock makes all the difference in how your feet feel during and after a run.

 

One of the most common mistakes that new runners make is to wear their 100% cotton gym socks when they run. While this initially may not be a problem, it will become an issue as the mileage increases. Cotton socks absorb sweat away from the feet, and create a soggy mess inside the shoes that slides around. Socks made specifically for running are made of synthetic fibers that wick sweat away from the runner’s feet, but they also hold their shape during the run. This is important because if a sock slides, moves, or becomes lodged in an area of the shoe that’s uncomfortable, the socks can causes blisters. Synthetic fibers used in running socks are designed to prevent blisters and keep the sweat wicked away from the runner’s feet.

 

A multitude of running socks exist, and each runner I know has a personal preference for a certain brand and style. I actually really like Feetures socks because they have a lip on the back of the sock that keeps the shorter socks in place at the back of the shoe. I also like Feetures because they provide support in the arch area of the foot, and this feels good to me while running. These socks have special stitching to keep from rubbing blisters along the seams. I prefer the socks that mostly are hidden by your running shoes, but Feetures does have socks of all lengths.  I have tried a number of other brands, but always tend to navigate back to the Feetures.

 

Another type of sock that is found to be beneficial is compression. These socks compress the calves, ankles, and sometimes the foot to prevent swelling and improve circulation in those areas. These types of socks are utilized before, during, and after a run based on personal preference. I tend to constantly be warm while running, so I prefer to wear compression socks after a run to increase blood flow to my calves to help them recover more quickly from a run.  

 

One of the best pieces of advice I got about running socks is to try several different brands to see what I like the best. Local running stores usually offer a variety of socks in varying heights and colors to try. Visit your local store today to take a look and try some on! Happy feet = happy running!

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How Do I Recover From A Run?

Often times when someone is new to running, they are eager to start, but are not sure how to recover when done running for the day or as the workouts progress from week to week. Recovery is just as important as the actual running! Here are some of the easiest ways to recover after each run to help ease muscle soreness:

  • Ice down your legs even if they aren’t sore.
  • Eat a well balanced meal after your run: proteins, veggies, fruits, dairy, and grain (as it suits your dietary needs).
  • Hydrate! Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Use your tool of choice to roll out sore muscles. Some examples are a foam roller, The Stick, a tennis ball, and or a lacrosse ball. 
  • If you can afford it, regular massages help ease muscle soreness and help the body relax. 
  • Sometimes we need a little over the counter help with some ibuprofen to help alleviate inflammation. (I personally would try all other options first.)
  • Try some yoga poses after your run to stretch out all the muscles you’ve worked. Some poses that I love are: pigeon, lizard, legs up the wall, and bridges. 
  • Soak in a hot Epsom salt bath!
  • Rest. A nap after a run is commonplace among my running buddies, but a solid night’s sleep helps your entire body recover from a run also. 

Try all these ideas out to help recover after a run and see what works best for you. I personally have found that applying several of these methods help keep my legs from feeling tight or stiff the days following my runs, especially as I increase mileage. As always, if there is any severe pain or discomfort, please consult your physician. Happy running and recovery!

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Fueled by Food, but how?

Let me first preface this by saying I am not a nutritionist or specialist on any kind of diets, but I have tried a number of ways to eat and am willing to share what I know. What I have learned is that any “diet” is usually a fad that is not meant to be long term. What I know is that eating the right way for you and your health concerns will be best for you in the long run. Each person has different nutritional needs, limitations, and allergies. I have friends that each run the gamut. I personally cannot thrive on a super low or no carb way of eating because it triggers headaches and weakness or dizziness when I run. My body needs carbs to function.

With this in mind, I have also learned that I cannot eat junk food and think that I will have incredible runs over the next few days. Instead, I am often met with a sugar high, a headache, and a quick visit with my couch for a few hours. My mindset about food is this: if you eat well, you will run well; if you eat like crap, you will run like crap. It has worked for me time and time again.

While that slice of cake may be enticing at the time, my body certainly puts up a fight after it’s been consumed, and I always lose. Headaches and a crash landing on the couch are not where I want to end up after I eat. These reasons are why I try to fuel my body with food that has nutritional value: lean proteins, some dairy (almond milk for me), vegetables and fruits that are as colorful as the rainbow, whole grains, and even the occasional treat of a bowl of ice cream every once in a while! Water is yet another undeniably valuable drink that our bodies thrive on and need daily.

As for fuel for runs, I have navigated through the selection in our local running store and tried them all. I have found that after several miles, my stomach is sensitive to the amounts of sugars in some gels and chomps. It is best to try out several types of fuel, including but not limited to: gels, chomps, tablets and powdered fuel to be added to water, electrolyte drinks, gums, and even a waffle! Each runner I have met has a new favorite and will vehemently tell you what doesn’t work for them. My favorites at the moment are cherry limeade Nuun tablets, that you place in water to dissolve, and black cherry Clif Bloks. If you are interested in trying the Nuun tablets, you can order at http://www.nuun.com and use the code “hydratewithus18” for 25% off 4 tubes until May 31st, 2018. I use both types of fuel to keep my electrolytes and energy up while I run.

As a new runner, it is best to try different ones, on different runs, to compare and contrast and see how it makes you feel, if it gives you enough or too little energy, if it causes stomach upset, or if the flavor is even something you can tolerate on your runs. Another consideration for the type of fuel you use is whether or not you need a drink to swallow the fuel or for it to work appropriately. Please read the packaging on each type of fuel to use it as recommended.

Overall, fuel in the form of food you eat on a daily basis and fuel you use during your runs both influence performance or lack thereof on any given run. If you have dietary restrictions or concerns, please talk with your doctor and or nutritionist before starting a new style of fueling your body to be sure it fits your needs. Remember, your body is like a well-oiled machine when it is fueled properly!

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Running Etiquette

Running etiquette is something that is not often discussed, but honestly, should be. Having run for most of my life, I have learned runner etiquette is not only appreciated, but expected. I have come up with a quick list of things to be conscious of whether you are running on the roads, trails, or during a race.

  • When you see a runner coming towards you, provide room for them to pass as long as it doesn’t put you in the way of traffic. If it does put you in the way of traffic, step to the side and stop for the brief moment that let’s the other runner pass.
  • If a runner or cyclist calls out “on your left,” please move to the right so that they can pass you. As a courtesy to others you are about to pass, please use the same phrase, even if they are not running.
  • If you are running on a narrow road, sidewalk, or trail, do not run side by side with your running buddies as it makes it impossible for others to pass safely.
  • If you are running an out and back route, be sure to not make a sudden u-turn because others may be behind you and may run into you!
  • If you are using any type of fuel during your training (gels, blocks, granola bars, etc.), don’t leave the packaging behind on the ground. Place it in your pocket until you see a garbage.
  • You are NOT bigger than a car, truck, bus, or RV. If they are barreling down the road, don’t cross the road in front of them or you risk serious injury!
  • Run against the traffic so that drivers, cyclists, and others can see you.
  • Pay attention to crosswalks, use the crosswalk buttons, and always watch for turning vehicles.
  • If you listen to music, make sure you can still hear sounds around you for your own personal safety and to watch out for traffic and emergency vehicles.
  • Seriously, don’t poop in someone’s yard in the wee hours of the morning. This made national news a few years back, and it really wasn’t necessary. Respect your surroundings; the neighbors will appreciate you for it!

Enjoy the miles, and please, use your manners!

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Why Do You Run?

This very question has been thrown around a lot in my world lately. I’ve seen it posed in varying running groups I take part in, on a few blogs, asked in person, and presented as a tagline for a local race. Since being benched from running due to an injury, I have thought a lot about why I personally choose to run. I have come up with a number of reasons, and many are still relevant today.

I first started running to prove to others that I could. It was a defiant, in your face, way to prove I could run faster than the boys in my elementary school. It became my way of hushing those in high school who told me I wasn’t an athlete, and I surely could never be a runner. As I traveled and moved after college, it was a way to prove that I could meet goals others thought I would never reach.

Another reason I run is to meet those goals. I don’t let others choose the goals for me, but I let others inspire me to dream big and chase goals! I’ve set goals that scare me. I’ve set A, B, and C goals to mentally prepare myself for the worst, middle of the road, and the best possible outcomes. When I first moved to Hampton Roads, I had not run a race of any kind outside of track meets in high school. My first goal was a half marathon. It was lofty, but it was scary and exciting and it kept me running! (And I finished it!)

Running can be a super personal adventure. One of the biggest reasons I run is for those who can no longer run. My mom and dad were both athletes, and super active as adults. My mom lost her battle to cancer when I was 12. I run to honor her, to chase dreams that are bigger than me, and to give it all I’ve got because she believed I could. I run for my dad because his multiple sclerosis has taken away his ability to even walk anymore. I run because I know he wants me to chase what I love.

I also run because of the feelings I have before, during, and after a run. The excitement prior to a run always makes me a bit jittery and ready to go. During a run, I feel nothing but adrenaline, determination, pure will, and hard work from pushing my body to do what I know it is physically capable of doing. After a run, the feeling of accomplishment, of being worn out, of being cleansed from the inside out, both mentally and physically, is fulfilling and definitely my happy place.

Lastly, I run to clear my head. Running is where I find my happy place, my happy pace, and my hope. As I heed the directions from the doctor to rest, I eagerly, and not so patiently wait for the days when I can run again. (Listen to the doc if you get injured. They always know best!)

So, ask yourself, “Why do I run?”

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Tunes or No Tunes?

I often get asked if I run with music or not. When I first started running during high school, I never ran with music.  As I ran during my college years, when I was no longer on a team, and after, I found myself putting in my head phones more often. When I first moved to the beach, I ran with music all the time. I found myself running with one ear bud in one ear so I could hear whoever I was running with talk to me. The more running I did, the more I listened to music.

The more times I did this, the more I changed my playlist. Then I decided to sign up for a 50K, and my coach recommended trying to run without music to listen to my breathing, how my body felt, and how my footsteps fell on the road and the trails as I ran. While running without music had become foreign to me, it was a welcome quiet. The silence allowed me to do exactly what my coach wanted. I listened to my breathing, and realized how ragged I sounded. I could feel my heart pounding. I could hear when I landed softly, and when I was slapping the ground with my heels too hard.

I started to appreciate the quiet. While I still chose, and now also choose, to run with other running buddies, the quiet of no music in my ears is still peaceful and welcome. Now I just listen to my friends talk about whatever conversation comes up on our run that day! I do enjoy the silence on solo runs quite often. It allows me to sort through my thoughts, clear my head, and feel like I’ve let go of the load on my shoulders by the time my run is done.

While I do appreciate the quiet, I often am found with both ear buds in my ears on any given race day. I tune the world out when I am racing so that I can focus on what I am doing. I am paying attention to my pace and my breathing, and pushing myself. I like the music to distract me from those around me, and it’s helpful to have a playlist full of music I love to listen to!

Honestly, listening to music or not while you run comes down to personal preference. If you are contemplating listening to music while running, try it out with just one ear bud in your ear so that you can hear your own body and everything happening around you. If you choose to run with music in both ears, be sure to keep the volume low enough to hear oncoming traffic and emergency vehicles. If you are on the trails, it is wise to run with only one ear bud in as well, just in case a wild animal comes along. This way you won’t be startled if an animal crosses your path!  If you prefer to run without music, enjoy the sounds of nature happening around you!

 

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Cold Weather Runner’s Advice

I am through and through a lover of cold weather for a solid run! My breathing is much easier, my pace becomes more steady, and I don’t get as overheated in cooler temps. My personal opinion of perfect running weather is 45-50 degrees and sunshiney! And you better believe I will still be in short sleeves and shorts! I am notorious for being hot on any given run.

As the temps in my area have crept closer and closer to the teens and single digits, my attire for both work and workouts has changed. For work, it’s easy enough to pull out my cuddle duds and fleece lined leggings to go under my dresses. It’s also pretty simple to add an additional undershirt and a scarf to complement my outfit and keep my neck warm. As a runner, dressing for colder temperatures, wind gusts, and possible snow and ice is a bit different.

Us runners are always known as the crazy fools who will run in anything. All the nay-sayers are right. We WILL run in anything, and we DO run in any kind of weather, winter included! So, new runners, here are some ideas of ways to figure out your best attire for running in colder temperatures.

  • Layer your running gear and have the shirt closest to your core be a sweat-wicking one that is a bit more snug than the rest of the tops you have on.
  • Wear long tights in the winter even if you can tolerate the cold so that you don’t risk permanent damage to your skin. I frequently grab my lined tights on days where the temperature is in the 20s or below to keep myself warm and to keep my skin from drying out and cracking from the wind and colder temps.
  • If you are unsure of how many layers to put on, start with a long sleeve, sweat-wicking running top, and add a running windbreaker on top. If this is not enough, either try an additional long sleeve between the jacket and the first layer, or try a heavier jacket. My go to for winter tops are my Under Armour cold gear long sleeve fitted, sweat-wicking top, a long sleeve technical race shirt, and my Under Armour cold gear winter running jacket that is water resistant and has a hood.
  • Try a heavier sock, possibly with smartwool. I have a pair of Farm to Feet socks that are a wool blend. I was given these as part of my race swag from running the Blue Ridge Marathon a few years ago, and love to wear them as the temps get colder. My feet stay toasty, and my socks still won’t slide around in my running shoes from being sweaty because they are breathable.
  • Wear a headband or beanie that covers your ears. Wind in the winter can be brutal, and our ears can surely suffer from the cold and wind. Keep your head covered to keep the heat in your body.
  • Gloves or mittens are definitely a must, as it is proven we lose a lot of our body heat through our extremities. Save yourself some big bucks by raiding the $1-$2 racks at the big box stores for those little gloves that can be easily tossed in the wash. I’ve lost a glove or two along the way when I’ve taken them off and haven’t tucked them all the way in my pockets. No need to be glamorous on the runs, so why not wear a mismatched pair of gloves?
  • Vaseline is a lifesaver when it comes to keeping your face from getting windburnt and hurting like crazy after coming in from a winter run. A thin layer of Vaseline applied to your entire face (forehead, cheeks, nose, and chin) will keep your skin moisturized, and stop the wind from leaving your face raw and red.
  • If you have asthma like I do, the lack of moisture in the air can be dangerous. I often do 1 of 2 things to help me breathe. I wear a neck gator, that slides down over my head, and is worn over my neck. I can pull it up over my mouth and nose if I am struggling to breathe, and the moist air helps my breath become steady once again. I also put a dab of Vicks VapoRub under my nose when I run to keep me breathing easy!
  • Last, but certainly not least, is a pair of sunglasses. If you are brave enough to try running on the snow, protect your eyes from the harsh reflection of the sun on the bright white snow by donning a pair of shades. I’ve tried shades from all kinds of stores, and finally settled on a pair of polarized running sunglasses from Tifosi. You can easily find these at many running stores. I found mine at Running Etc. in the hilltop area of Virginia Beach.

As always, run with care in the winter time. Snow and ice can create hazardous surfaces to run on. Be prepared to run a little slower than normal, and to drink as much as you would on a hot day. Going a bit slower, and being more precise about footing can cause you to sweat just as much on a warmer day. Enjoy the miles and stay warm!

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