Category Archives: Running

Xero Shoes Prio Review

Xero Shoes PrioI first discovered Xero Shoes several years ago during my search for a minimalist running sandal. I’d just read Born to Run, and like many others who were inspired by that book, I decided to get rid of my overly-cushioned running sneakers.

I wasn’t ready to run barefoot through the streets of NYC, but I was looking for the closest approximation. I wanted to “feel the world” without the risk of cutting the bottoms of my feet on broken glass or stepping on a syringe.

While doing an internet search for “barefoot running sandals” I came across Xero Shoes (who at the time were called “Invisible Shoes”) and immediately contacted them to place an order. The first pair I owned was just a thin piece of rubber with a single string attached to it through a few small holes. I loved those sandals!

Running in Xero Shoes PrioOver the years, Xero Shoes has grown considerably as a brand, and they’ve continued to improve and refine their products. Those simple sandals they originally offered are now much more durable, and the fastening system has come a long way from that single piece of string. (Check out the latest running sandals from Xero Shoes to see how far they have come.)

With the introduction of the new Prio running sneaker, Xero Shoes have come full circle. Instead of just offering an alternative to the traditional running sneaker, they are now offering a better running sneaker.

The Prio is Xero Shoes’ follow up to their first closed-toed shoe, the Ipari Hana, which was introduced to the world last fall. While the Hana feels more like a casual/athletic shoe hybrid, the Prio definitely feels like a full-on sneaker, albeit an extremely lightweight, flexible one. With the Prio, Xero Shoes have found the perfect balance between their ultra-minimalist sandals and the conventional running sneaker.

Al Kavadlo Xero Shoes PrioLike all Xero Shoes, the Prio is cut fairly large and is great for people who have wide feet.

Unlike a lot conventional running sneakers, however, the Prio molds to the shape of your foot, rather than forcing your foot to mold to the shape of the sneaker. It’s a very adaptable shoe that provides a more natural feel than most standard running sneakers.

Of course you can do more than just run in these bad-boys! The Prio is great for calisthenics training or any other physical activity that requires agility and/or foot movement.

The Prio is available for both men and women, in a variety of colors.

Watch the video below for more, then click here to get yourself a pair.

(Disclaimer: Al Kavadlo is an official sponsor for Xero Shoes)

Death To Cardio

So long, Stairmaster!

After racing the NYC Triathlon last week, I’ve decided that I’m never doing cardio again.

In fact, I actually stopped doing cardio workouts a long time ago.

You may have seen me running, swimming and biking in this recent video clip, but that wasn’t cardio training – it was skill practice.

In the context of my overall training schedule, I don’t even see the race itself as cardio. It was a one-off endurance challenge, and really more mental than physical.

Trading Cardio
The difference between seeing your workout as “cardio” vs. seeing it as “practice” may be a subtle distinction, but I believe it is an extremely important one. People who “do cardio” tend to have one objective in mind: weight loss. As I’ve discussed before, exercise alone is not a very effective way to lose weight (you have to eat less crap in order to do that!), but the mindset you bring to any activity can greatly impact your experience.

Swimming for sure!

Rather than forcing yourself to simulate movement on a piece of machinery for a set amount of time, a better way to approach your training might be to work on skill improvement. While there are certainly benefits to “gym cardio” (improved circulation, increased cardiac output, higher oxygen uptake/utilization efficiency), part of what makes exercise worth doing is the activity itself. I personally never met anyone who genuinely enjoys an hour alone on the stationary bike, but it’s fun and exciting to do something like a triathlon – and all of us have that potential.

Skill Power
You can become a perfectly good runner without ever worrying about how many calories you burned, what your target heart rate is or even knowing exactly how much distance you’ve covered. And you’ll probably enjoy the process a whole lot more without wasting mental space on trivialities. Treat your workout as skill practice and the shift in perspective turns any health benefits into an added bonus. You might even forget you’re working out and start having some old-fashioned fun!

Don’t get me wrong – exercise isn’t always gummy bears and double rainbows, but it shouldn’t be torturous either. There are plenty of times when I feel challenged during a workout, but pushing through those uncomfortable moments leads to a better understanding of my body – as well as personal growth.

I firmly believe that any “fit” person ought to be able to run a few miles or swim to shore should they find themselves in such a predicament (in addition to being able to do some pull-ups, of course!). Besides, if you focus on improving at physical skills, you’re inevitably going to get in better shape along the way. Having a good body is nice, but being physically capable is empowering.

2012 NYC Triathlon Race Report

Ever since running the NYC Marathon back in 2009, racing the NYC Triathlon has been next on my fitness bucket-list. Well after last Sunday, I can now scratch that one off too!

The tri was a great experience, and finishing is an accomplishment that I will be proud of for the rest of my life. However, I went through many different feelings and emotions throughout the race. As the famous Dickens quote goes, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

The Swim
The hardest part of the whole race was dealing with the anxiety in the morning. From the moment I woke up I had butterflies in my stomach; I didn’t really settle into my groove until a few minutes after I got in the water. As someone who never really swam as a kid, jumping feet first into the Hudson was the part that I was most anxious about. (Only the pros dive in head first, thankfully!) Once I settled in, however, the swim went very well.

Though it has a bad reputation, the water in the Hudson was no more disgusting than the water at Coney Island where I did most of my open-water triathlon training. There was some seaweed to contend with and I bumped into a log once, but it was pretty minor compared to some of the horror stories I’ve heard from other triathletes (though I did catch an elbow in the face near the start of the swim).

The downstream current in the Hudson definitely helped with my time, though I found myself getting pulled to the left as well. I spent a good deal of the swim trying to steer myself back to the middle. Though I couldn’t see or hear much in the water, I was reminded very loudly by some of the crew who were following along in canoes to “STAY TO THE RIGHT!”

As the visibility in the water was virtually nonexistent, I didn’t realize I was close to the end until I was within about 100 meters. Needless to say, I was quite pleased to see it when I did!

The Bike
After the swim there’s a barefoot run (on pavement!) into the transition area, which is just a field with a bunch of bike racks on it. I took my time in the first transition since I wanted to carefully remove my wetsuit, clean my feet, have a snack, drink some water, pee, etc. I also wanted to check that all my things were okay (they were). Since getting a good night’s sleep was a priority for me, I had left all my stuff there the night before. (Many participants forgo some sleep to bring their gear to the transition the morning of the race).

The bike ride was longer and more challenging than I had anticipated. Between the July heat and the steep hills, the ride dragged on for what seemed like an eternity. Since I was in one of the later start waves, the pack had thinned out quite a bit and there weren’t many other cyclists around. There were times when I didn’t see anyone else on the road at all. As I was alone for much of the ride, it didn’t feel like much of a “race” at all – I took it slow on most of the hills and eventually I made it to the end.

The Run
Once the bike ride was over, there was a huge sense of relief. So many things are out of your control during the swim and the bike (someone crashing into you, a flat tire, etc), but once I was onto the run, I knew it was all up to me. Nothing could take it away at that point.

I took the first couple of miles slow and easy and eventually started to find my legs in mile three. I kept it at a steady pace, splashing cups of water on my face every time I passed the aid tables (I managed to get some water down my throat as well.) The last mile of the run I kicked it up a notch, triumphantly crossing the finish line with a net time of 3:36:13.

After the race, I picked up my bike from the transition area and rode five more miles back to my apartment, rewarding myself with one of my favorite indulgences: pizza!

I didn’t look at a clock once during the race, which I think helped me pace myself and enjoy the journey without getting caught up in any of the ego stuff. I just listened to my body and tried to stay at a moderate level of exertion for most of the race. The only time I turned up the juice was near the end of the run.

In retrospect, I know I could have done the whole thing faster if I pushed a bit harder, but I have no regrets about my performance. With all the things that could potentially go wrong during a triathlon, I am just glad I made it across the finish line in one piece.



Results:

Swim: 28:22

T1: 13:01

Bike: 1:49:46

T2: 3:34

Run: 1:01:31

Total: 3:36:13

Watch the video below to see a photo montage of pictures from the event.
(Photos by Colleen Leung.)

Beginning Running

Al Kavadlo Running the Brooklyn HalfAs a kid, I got into working out because I wanted to put on muscle. Running had absolutely no appeal to me; runners were skinny guys and I wanted to get diesel.

And besides, running sucks! Who the hell would want to run around for hours for no reason? I was going to do pull-ups and get jacked.

Ironically, most people who begin running are drawn to it for the exact reason that I was turned off – they want to be skinny!

Turns out we’re both wrong.

In the Running
Running has seen a boom in recent years, but along with that explosion there has also been a backlash. Distance running has been called “chronic cardio” by members of the primal community and has been blamed for countless ailments and injuries. A lot of the backlash against running is aimed at those who are motivated primarily by a desire to lose weight (and those in the industry who pander to them). Truth is, while running can burn lots of calories, unless you change your eating habits, you’re unlikely to see any significant weight loss from beginning a running program. In spite of this, I believe that everyone should give running a shot as part of their fitness program. Especially those of you who hate it.

For the Love of Running
When most people (even fit people) begin running, there is an adaptation period that can be unpleasant and frustrating. Once you cross that threshold, however, the improvement that you will feel in your day to day life is significant. The increased aerobic capacity and cardiovascular function is just the beginning. You’ll also develop leg endurance that can carry over into walking, stair climbing and other everyday activities.

Of course, the best motivation to run is simply that it feels great (once you get accustomed to it). Simple pleasures make life worth living and few things rank higher on my list than a good run. Running can be an acquired taste, but just like riding a bike, once you get the mechanics down and start to build some endurance, it becomes a whole different experience.

Al and Grace Kavadlo RunningDesigning a Running Program
In the beginning, start out with run/walk intervals. You don’t need to follow a strict protocol, just run at a steady pace for as long as you can (which might be anywhere from 30 seconds to several minutes). When you need to, take a break and walk until you catch your breath.

Repeat this process for 20 or 30 minutes, then stretch out and call it a day. In time, your walk breaks will get shorter and shorter until you can eventually go for 30 minutes without a break.

Once you can do that, you can try alternating between jogging and sprinting for your interval training.

LSD Running
Anyone who’d want to run a Marathon must be tripping, right?

Seriously though, if you’re crazy enough to want to do a Marathon or Half-Marathon, be smart about it – you’re going to need to run at a substantially slower pace and gradually build up your mileage. This type of running is usually referred to as long slow distance or “LSD” running.

LSD running is slow enough that you can maintain a conversation while running, so feel free to invite a workout partner. Take your time on LSD runs, it should feel almost like how walking feels to a non-runner.

Running is Fun-ctional
For those of you who still think strength training is all you need, keep in mind that in the wild, you’re either quick or you’re dead. For that reason, running is the most functional bodyweight exercise out there. I don’t care how strong you are, if you can’t run, you’re not fit. But perhaps more importantly, you’re missing out on a lot of fun!

Related Articles:
Forefoot Running
Exercise vs. Skill
Barefoot Running

Barefoot Running Technique

By now, most people have heard of the barefoot running movement. You probably even know some wacko at your office whose got a pair of “the feet gloves” or better yet, those Born to Run style huaraches. Maybe you’re even thinking of trying it for yourself. Here are some things to consider before you jump on the barefoot bandwagon.

To Shoe or Not to Shoe
Barefoot running is appealing not only because it taps into our primal caveman instincts, but more importantly, because it encourages forefoot running, which is generally considered the safest, most efficient running technique. Forefoot running lessens joint impact and facilitates a higher stride frequency, which is often correlated with faster race times.

Will Barefoot Running Make You Faster?
Maybe, but probably not. However, barefoot running will help you learn how to run with less impact, which will reduce the likelihood of pain and injuries – at least in the long run (pun intended).

Transitioning to Forefoot Running
While running barefoot or with minimal footwear is a great way to learn the forefoot technique, it isn’t absolutely necessary. Even though I like to run in my Xero Shoes, you can learn to run on your forefoot in any comfortable sneaker (I still like to run in Vans, too).

When making the transition to forefoot running, it is common to experience severe soreness in your calves. This doesn’t mean that you’re doing anything wrong. It just means you’re using muscles that you aren’t used to using. In time, those muscles will become stronger and the soreness following a run will subside.

Keep your knees and ankles bent.

The Technique
Other than the obvious, there are a few key differences between the forefoot running technique and the heel-to-toe technique.

First, in forefoot running, your foot lands right under your hips instead of in front of your center of gravity. This does not mean that you’re up on the tips of your toes the whole time, but rather that your foot will land almost totally flat, with the heel just barely making contact with the ground. Maintaining good posture while bending your knees and leaning forward from your ankles will help facilitate this.

Kick out the back, Jack!

Forefoot running technique is more about using your hamstrings and glutes to kick out behind you, as opposed to using your quads to reach out in front. Don’t think about lifting your knees, instead just think about picking your foot up off the ground. The rest should take care of itself.

Another difference with barefoot running technique is that you aim to keep your foot in contact with the ground as briefly as possible. Rather than leaving your foot down there while you roll from heel to toe, in forefoot running, you strike down quickly and move into the next stride immediately.

Whether you choose to wear shoes or not, relax, focus on proper posture and listen to your body to avoid pain. Ease in slowly and gradually, allowing yourself time to adapt.

Watching the 2010 NYC Marathon

The NYC marathon always attracts a crowd and this year was no different. In addition to the 37,000 entrants, there were millions of friends, family and fans lined up to cheer on the racers, giving the entire city Marathon fever!

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a whole year since I ran the NYC marathon, but time flies when you’re having fun. And hey – it’s been a good year!

This time around, I was excited to be a spectator. Being part of the crowd is almost as much fun as being in the race itself! It was a beautiful day and the positive energy was overwhelming.

The popularity of distance running is undeniable and everyone is welcome to participate. With entrants from all ages, nationalities and body types represented, it proved to me that anyone who sets their mind to it can run a Marathon.

Check out the photos below for more:

Age is just a number. So is 26.2.

Go Frank!

Viva Italia!

Waldo!

Heel striking in Vibrams? Oh and he's in a funny costume, too.

Photos by Colleen Leung

NYC Summer Streets 2010

For the third year in a row, the NYC Dept. of Transit will be presenting the Summer Streets program this month, shutting down automobile traffic on Park Ave. from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park in order to let people walk, run and ride their bikes.

Summer Streets will take place on three consecutive Saturdays this month (August 7th, 14th, and 21st) from 7am to 1pm. Millions of people will participate – don’t miss out on the fun!

I was grateful for summer streets last year while I was training for the NYC Marathon. Running those distances was so much more fun without having to inhale car emissions, plus the energy of my fellow New Yorkers running and riding along side made those 18 and 20 mile training runs go (relatively) quickly.

If you’re looking to do a long bike ride or run, take advantage of Central Park; where the Summer Streets path ends, you can still do several additional miles in the park (which you can do anytime of year!). At the other end of Summer Streets is the Brooklyn Bridge, which will also give you a few extra miles to run or bike.

Whether you live in the city or are just visiting NYC, it’s a rare treat to get to run in the streets without any cars! Summer Streets is a wonderful, free activity that can be enjoyed with friends and family or in solitude. I’m hoping to participate more than once this summer – maybe I’ll see you there!

Check out the official Summer Streets website for more info.

Finding Your Target Heart Rate

I got an email recently from a runner (let’s call him Jim) who had just started wearing a heart rate monitor during his training. Jim was concerned because at 56 years of age, his maximal heart rate was “supposed to be” 164 beats per minute (bpm), yet during his threshold run he managed to get his heart rate all the way up to 172 bpm.

Was Jim putting himself in danger by exerting himself too hard?

Of course not! Theory is for science; practice is for living.

What do I mean by that? Simple, Jim’s theoretical maximum heart rate is 164, but in reality he got all the way up to 172 (which for the record is definitely not the fastest his heart could beat.) Instead of assuming that something is wrong with Jim, maybe something is wrong with the chart that told him he couldn’t get beyond 164. Don’t be afraid to question things, people!

Don’t Trust the Chart

Bogus Heart Rate Chart

The heart rate charts that appear in many fitness books and manuals that come with heart rate monitors are antiquated and based upon the fallacy that as you get older, your heart gets weaker. This might be true if you spend your entire life sitting at a desk, but if you are an active person, there is no reason why your heart can’t be just as strong at 56 as it was at 26. The other major problem with the chart (and with all charts of its nature) is that it assumes all people are identical! There is no one thing that is best for everybody and heart rate ranges are no exception.



Finding Your True Max Heart Rate

So how do you find your target heart rate? I have a very simple test. If you have a heart rate monitor it will help, but you can do this test as long as you have two fingers and a pulse.

First, warm up with one or two miles of easy running, then step up your pace a little bit for another mile. Once you have a good sweat going and your heart is pumping, sprint as hard as you can for as long as you can! Then check your heart rate. Add 5 to that number, and that’s your max heart rate.

Oh and don’t be foolish. If you have a heart condition or if you’ve never run more than a mile, don’t try this test just yet.

Running the Williamsburg Bridge

Running hills has long been a cornerstone of serious running programs. Whether you’re doing threshold training or running intervals, running uphill is a great way to “ramp up” your cardio session. For city dwellers, running over a bridge can offer a nice variation on the classic hill run.

If you are in the NYC area, I recommend running the Williamsburg Bridge as it’s generally less prone to foot traffic from tourists as compared to the Manhattan or Brooklyn Bridge.

The Williamsburg Bridge runs from Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood into Manhattan’s Lower East Side. According to Wikipedia, the Williamsburg Bridge is 7308 feet (don’t worry, I did the math and it comes to about 1.38 miles.)

When you’re crossing the bridge from Manhattan into Brooklyn, the pedestrian crossing splits into two sections. Staying to the right is steeper on the last downhill portion so I generally prefer to stay to the left; very steep downhills take practice. (It’s still pretty steep on the left.)

I brought my invisible shoes (and my camera!) with me on a recent running excursion into my native Brooklyn.

Watch the video below to see how it went:

Running the Brooklyn Half Marathon 2010

The morning of the race. The sun was just starting to come up as I got ready in my apartment.

You don’t need fancy sneakers to run long distance. This past Saturday I ran the Brooklyn Half Marathon in my beat up, old Vans and it was a great experience. Finishing the race with a time of 1:53:33 (8:40 per mile) felt pretty good, too.

I started my day before the sun came up, making my way to Prospect Park just in time to line up for the 7am start. After running two loops of the park, we hit the streets of Brooklyn, going down Ocean Parkway all the way to Coney Island, finishing on its famous boardwalk.

When you run a distance this long, there are inevitably moments when you just want to stop. I usually have music with me to help with those times, but without my ipod, I had to rely on my own intrinsic motivation to keep pushing forward.

I used safety pins to affix the D-tag to my shoelace-free Vans.

Wait…You Ran the Half in What?
It doesn’t matter if you have $200 sneakers or $20 ones, as long as you have comfortable footwear and a good understanding of proper running mechanics, you can train your body to take care of the rest.

With the popularity of barefoot and minimalist running starting to spread to the mainstream, I expected to see a lot of minimalist runners out there. Instead it was the usual sea of Nikes. With the exception of one friend who raced in Vibrams (and a few people I saw in Nike Free’s), everyone else was running in the conventional stuff.

There were a lot of ups and downs during the race, but the best part about the Brooklyn Half Marathon was that I’d already expended a full day’s worth of calories by 9am. I had a lot of fun making up that deficit!

Invisible Shoes

As part of my minimalist approach to running, I’ve been experimenting with various types of footwear. I’ve tried running barefoot at the beach and even at the track, but with all the things that you could cut yourself on in the streets of NYC, I’ve been looking for the next closest thing.

A lot of people have suggested that I try running in Vibram Five Fingers, but I’m turned off by the price tag. When I came across Invisible Shoes, which cost less than half the price of a pair of Vibrams (for a custom pair nonetheless!), I knew I was on to something.

Invisible Shoes are the closest thing that I have seen to actual barefoot running. They’re based on the famous “huaraches” that the Tarahumara Indians wear when they run. Putting them on made me feel like a Native American warrior!

They also offer a do-it-yourself kit, where you can make your own huaraches by purchasing the raw materials. Without the cost of labor, the price drops even more.

The first few times I went running in my Invisible Shoes, I had a little trouble getting the laces tight enough to keep the sandal on my foot without over-doing it and making them too tight. Once I found the sweet spot, however, the Invisible Shoe felt great.

Running in Invisible Shoes will keep you on your toes–literally! The few times when I lost focus and let my form get sloppy while running in them, I was immediately brought back to the hard reality of the pavement.

Like all things, it’s best to gradually transition to your new running style in order to let your body get conditioned. You’ll likely be using muscles in your feet that you’re not used to, and if you aren’t already practicing the forefoot running technique, you’ll need to get used to that as well.

I going to stick with my plan to run the upcoming Brooklyn Half Marathon in my Vans slip-ons, but perhaps at the next race you’ll spot me sporting Invisible Shoes.

Rethinking Running Sneakers

The beach is a great place for barefoot running.

I’ve run many races over the years, usually wearing high-tech sneakers and my heart rate monitor, while meticulously selecting the best running playlist for my iPod. When I run the Brooklyn half marathon next month, however, I am going to try something new; I’m planning to leave all those things at home.


A few months ago I made this post about running sneakers, in which I proposed that high-tech footwear was ideal for safety and performance. However, I have since come to reconsider my opinion on the matter.

I’ve been a proponent of forefoot running for a long time, but my recent experiments with barefoot running have led me to realize how highly cushioned shoes decrease your ability to sense the way your foot is landing; this is potentially the root of most running injuries.

Of course barefoot running is great if you’re on the grass or the beach, but I’ve even gone barefoot at the track. I still prefer to wear something on my feet for road-running, but it doesn’t need to be anything fancy–just something comfortable and lightweight. In fact, the less cushioning the better. The same way that wearing thick gloves will decrease your dexterity with your hands, wearing overly cushioned sneakers can make your feet heavy and clumsy.

I'm planning to run 13.1 miles in these!

The reason so many people tend to get running injuries is more often poor form than poor footwear. Running barefoot or in minimal footwear will quickly improve your running form for the simple reason that bad form actually hurts when you don’t have an inch of padding under your feet. While that padding can be enough to desensitize you to the impact, it isn’t enough to protect your joints. Thin soled shoes will force you to be light on your feet, which will likely improve your speed as well as your safety.


Lately I’ve been running in Vans slip-ons, a casual sneaker that almost feels more like a slipper. They are very comfortable and as an added bonus, I don’t ever have to worry about my shoelaces coming untied! I might get some weird looks at the start line for the Brooklyn half, but I’ve never been one to let that bother me.

(Editor’s note: Check out this post on running the Brooklyn Half Marathon in Vans to find out how that went.)

Going Caveman in Mexico

Getting primal up on this bitch, er, beach.

I’m no stranger to caveman workouts and I love to keep variety in my exercise regimen. So during my visit to Mexico this week, I decided to take my primal training style to a whole new level.

Running barefoot on the beach, hiking through trails and climbing trees have been just a few of the activities I’ve explored during my time south of the border.

Since I began running, I have been a proponent of wearing high-tech footwear, but since reading Born to Run, I’ve been rethinking my stance on the importance of running sneakers.

It seemed fitting to experiment with barefoot running in the beaches and backwoods of Mexico–near the home of the legendary Tarahumara Indians, who are famous for their ultra-distance runs in minimal footwear.

Watch me play Tarzan in the video below:
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MhDoF7cFPFU

Where to Run in NYC

I’m sometimes surprised by how often my clients tell me they can’t find anywhere to run in the city. I tell them, “If there is ground ahead of you and you can put one foot in front of the other, you can run.”

Having said that, there are some spots that are more conducive to running for fitness than others. Three of my favorite places to run in NYC are the West Side highway, the East River path and, of course, New York City’s famous Central Park.

The path on the West Side Highway was built fairly recently and runs along several miles of the city, from lower Manhattan up past midtown. If you head south, the path leads into Battery Park City, one of NYC’s hidden gems for runners. If you’re going in the other direction, you’ll pass Chelsea Piers and you can follow the path north for another few miles before turning back.

For those of you closer to the Lower East Side or East Village, you may prefer to run along the East River. You’ll need to cross an overpass to get on the other side of the FDR expressway, but there are several entrances. Once on the other side, you have a few options. You can run on the path adjacent to the highway, you can run along the esplanade (which is still under construction) or you can check out the running track near the East 6th street overpass.

If you’re running south, you will eventually cross through the South Street Seaport and you can wrap around and come up the West Side. If you’re heading north, however, watch out! The path thins out around midtown and you could find yourself running on the highway if you’re not careful!

Of course, there’s Central Park–the granddaddy of them all. With its famous reservoir, over 6 miles of rolling hills and several trails off the beaten path, Central Park offers something for everyone. Whether you’re a resident of New York City or just visiting, make sure to take advantage of the city’s nicest natural resource.

Related Topics:
Best Hotels in NYC
Forefoot Running
Threshold Running

Forefoot Running

When I tell people that I love distance running, I often get reprimanded. “You’re going to blow out your knees,” people warn me.

I don’t know if they genuinely think they are going to save me from the perils of ACL surgery or if people just like to get on a soapbox, but it’s getting old.

Distance running is not inherently bad. When running injuries occur, it is often due to improper training and/or running with bad form.

I might get in trouble for saying this, but we are each responsible for our own fate. If you take good care of your body and you know how to safely progress, there shouldn’t be an issue. Too many people get it in their head that they want to run a marathon, but they can barely even run a mile! If you don’t build up to longer distances gradually (the general rule is to increase your total mileage by no more than ten percent each week), you are setting yourself up for overuse injuries.

That, and for crying out loud, stop landing on your damn heels!

In the book Born to Run, Christopher McDougal suggests that modern running sneakers (Nikes in particular) are to blame for Americans’ poor running technique. He points out that the over-cushioning prevents people from realizing that their form is detrimental to their joints. Ironically, the very footwear that was designed to prevent these injuries is often the culprit behind them.

If you try running barefoot, you’ll quickly see for yourself how unpleasant it can be to land on your heels!

While I do like to run in sneakers sometimes, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be mindful of proper form.

Running on your heels isn’t only risky for your joints, it’s also not a very efficient way to get the most out of each stride. By leaning forward and landing on your mid-foot and toes, you keep your momentum and allow gravity to do some of the work for you. Whether you are a recreational jogger, or a triathlon competitor, proper running technique is key.

Several different names for the technique of leaning forward and landing on the forefoot have been used. A Russian doctor named Nicolas Romanov coined the term “pose running” in the late seventies and has written a great deal about it.

Many other books have addressed the problems with landing on your heels, such as Chi Running by Danny Dreyer.

Before you decide that “running isn’t for you,” make sure you fully explore all the evidence. Don’t be in a rush to get to the finish line, instead try to simply enjoy each step along the way.

Threshold Training

Threshold training is one of the best ways to improve performance in middle distance running. Sometimes called tempo running, threshold training involves trying to take your body right to the edge, without falling off the cliff.

If you were to rate your intensity on a scale of 1-10 during a run, a comfortable jog might rank as a 6, with an all out sprint being a 10. While interval running has you alternate between those two extremes, the goal of threshold training is to stay at an 8 or 9 for as long as possible, remaining on the brink of exhaustion without crossing over the line.

Some people like to use heart rate monitors during threshold training to monitor their intensity. You can also use a stop watch, or simply use the honor system and go by your perceived level of effort based on the 1-10 scale.

After a 5-10 minute warm-up, your threshold run should last between 20-45 minutes. Most people cannot maintain a high level of intensity for much longer than that, though really fit people might be able to push it to an hour.

Threshold training is a great way to increase your lactic acid threshold, which in turn will increase your speed. Lactic acid builds up as a by-product of muscle contraction during exercise. A person whose body has been conditioned to intense training runs is better able to handle the build up of lactic acid and therefore doesn’t experience the nausea that can be associated with it.

Over time, speeds that used to seem fast can start to feel comfortable. When used once or twice a week in a program that also includes high intensity interval training and active recovery workouts, threshold training can be a great tool to increase both your speed and your mental toughness.

Active Recovery

After a hard workout, you might be dreading the soreness which will inevitably ensue over the next 24-48 hours. Your instinct could be to take the next day off from exercising altogether. Not so fast!

Active recovery allows you to keep the momentum in terms of your fitness AND can potentially decrease the lactic acid build-up that’s partially to blame for muscle soreness.

Instead of taking the day off, try following your high intensity training day with a low intensity workout. For example, if you did sprints on Saturday, you might just want to do an easy jog on Sunday.

The principle behind active recovery can also be applied within the context of a single workout. When used this way, active recovery refers to following an intense exercise with a less intense one.

Rather than simply resting in between sets of pull-ups, an active recovery workout might have you alternating pull-ups with a lower intensity exercise that allows your arms to rest while keeping your heart rate up, like jumping jacks.

While I am a proponent of daily exercise, that doesn’t mean that every workout has to be an all-out balls-to-the-wall effort. Varying your intensity is the key to maintaining a daily workout regimen without over-training.


Trainer Tip:

Remember to listen to your body–use active recovery when it feels appropriate–but don’t start using it as a rationalization to slack off.

High Intensity Interval Training

track signInterval training is often touted as the best way to burn fat and expend high amounts of energy during a workout. It is also great for people who don’t feel that they have a lot of time to devote to fitness. A high intensity interval training session (sometimes called HIIT) can be completed in under 30 minutes.

HIIT alternates between rounds of high intensity exercise immediately followed by a low intensity recovery period. That recovery period allows you to renew your focus (both physically and mentally) before having to go all out again. While interval training can be done using any cardio modality like running, biking, or stair climbing, I’m a runner, so I’ll use running as an example.

After a 5 minute warmup (a brisk walk to a light jog depending on your fitness level), you would begin your first high intensity interval, consisting of running as hard as you can for at least 30 seconds. You can push yourself hard for 30 seconds, right?

Following that, your intensity goes back down to where you were during your warm up. Psychologically, you can use this rest to help get through the hard part. Repeat this process several times and end with a 5-10 minute cool down (and some stretching).

The thing with HIIT that a lot of people tend to overlook is that it only works effectively if you really push yourself on the high intensity portions. When you get to the recovery portion, you should be out of breath and totally gassed. You also have to be prepared to turn the heat back up right away once you are recovered, which can be very demanding mentally as well as physically. Remember, though, you can’t get fit without doing the work.

HIIT is one time when I do advocate the use of treadmills because of the convenience of the timer and the ease of measuring speeds and distances. Nothing beats doing an interval workout at a track with a stopwatch, though, if you have that option.

Trainer Tip:

While HIIT cardio is a great way to maximize your time, it should not be the only type of cardio in your routine. Threshold training and active recovery days are also important components of a well rounded running program.

More of Al's Best Running Playlists

Running w MusicWhat makes for a great running playlist?

Well besides the obvious stuff, like picking your favorite genre (I like rock music) or finding songs with inspiring lyrics, I like to find songs that I can sync my pacing with rhythmically.

When I time my foot strike with the beat, it helps me to keep my footing even. It also enhances my focus when I match my movements to the music.

Depending on how fast I want to try to run, I can select songs with various beats per minute (bpm). The bpm of the song correlates with the amount of strides I’ll take in a minute. I usually take around 170 strides per minute, but I’ll sometimes go a bit faster or slower depending on the circumstances.

Here are some songs I like to warm up to:

Judith–A Perfect Circle–Mer De Noms
Long Division–Death Cab for Cutie–Narrow Stairs
Another Space Song–Failure–Fantastic Planet
I Want You So Hard (Boys Bad News)–Eagles Of Death Metal–Death By Sexy

Below is a playlist comprised of faster songs. I used this playlist for my recent 4 mile race:

Closer–Nine Inch Nails–The Downward Spiral
Heroes–Shinedown–Us And Them
Fill My Little World–The Feeling–Twelve Stops And Home
Elite–Deftones–White Pony
Dandelion–Audioslave–Out Of Exile
Sound Of Madness–Shinedown–The Sound Of Madness
Defy You–The Offspring–Greatest Hits
Blood And Thunder–Mastodon–Leviathan

Click here for my marathon playlist.

What are your favorite songs to run to?

Cross Training for Runners (and Everyone!)

Cycling can be used as cross training for runners.

Cycling can be used as cross training for runners.

I hurt my foot the other day and didn’t feel up to running; even walking was causing me some discomfort. I knew that it would be foolish to try to run, but I really didn’t want to blow off my training altogether. Figuring that the impact of my foot hitting the ground while walking was the main cause for the discomfort that I was feeling, I decided to do some impact-free cross training. Starting off on the elliptical trainer, I figured I would just take it from there. Once I got into it, I started feeling pretty good!

However, after fifteen minutes on the elliptical trainer, I started to lose my patience (I’m not a big fan of cardio machines!), but instead of stopping my workout, I switched it up and got on a bike for fifteen minutes. My foot felt fine on the bike as well. Finally, feeling a bit frustrated that I wasn’t able to keep my heart rate as high as I wanted on the bike, I made another switch, this time to the stair stepper. Without even really planning for it, I completed a pretty decent cross training workout by the time I was done!

Cross training is basically just a fancy sounding way of saying “doing different stuff.” Mixing up different types of cardio helps to keep your workout from getting monotonous–and it’s better for your body, too. Your body is capable of many different movement patterns, and they all effect your muscles in slightly different ways. If you are a runner, cycling can be a great alternative on those days when you don’t feel up to running for whatever reason. Conversely, if you are more of a cyclist, then you can use running as cross training. As always, you are encouraged to experiment and find what feels best for you.

Cardio machines like the elliptical trainer and exercise bike might be nice alternatives to running, especially for people with injuries or ailments, because they can potentially cause less stress to your joints and connective tissues. But don’t feel confined to the gym! Get out in the real world and use your body. The gym is only practice for the real thing–life itself.

Are You Really Running on That Treadmill?

Get out and go for a run!

Get out and go for a run!

I have often been heard to remark that indoor cardio (with machines like treadmills or stationary bikes) is, at best, a mixed blessing.

On the one hand, it is nice to be able to know exactly how fast of a pace you are keeping. And it’s nice to be able to adjust your intensity with the push of a button. Treadmills can also be beneficial when doing interval running and/or sprints.

But my big gripe is with people who consider themselves “runners” but have never actually run outdoors.

Anyone who has a considerable amount of mileage under their belt on both treadmills and actual terrain already knows that they are quite different experiences.

When you’re on a treadmill, the conveyor belt moves towards you and you stay in the same place. All you do is lift your foot. You don’t actually propel yourself forward. All this probably sounds obvious, but bear in mind that this phenomenon makes it considerably less work, and it can give you a false sense of how fast you are.

You might be setting yourself up for a rude awakening when you actually start running for real. It is so much more challenging–and of course, the greater the challenge, the greater the reward!

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to sound like an elitist here. Treadmills are great for all the reasons I mentioned above. But it’s easy to rely on them too much. They are designed to supplement actual running–not replace it. The majority of your training should be done on real terrain. If you only run on the treadmill, you are missing out on one of the greatest joys that I’ve known in life.

The recent boom in popularity of outdoor running is undeniable. This past November, over 42 thousand people completed the NYC marathon (including me)–the most finishers ever!

So think about it, are you really running on that treadmill?

Running Accessories: Heart Rate Monitors

I'm in there somewhere In life, there are things that you need to have and there are things that are nice to have. You need basic things like food and shelter–we can’t survive without them.

On the other hand, luxuries like cell phones and elevators fall into the category of nice to have. Sometimes we feel like we need them–but we wouldn’t die without them.

In running, the only thing that you really need is your body itself. For me, that simplicity is part of the appeal of running.

Hopefully you have a body already, so let’s focus on some of the other things, the ones that are nice to have. Afterall, there is nothing wrong with having nice things.

Heart rate monitors typically have two components: a wristwatch and a chest strap.

Heart rate monitors typically have two components: a wristwatch and a chest strap.

Heart rate monitors allow you to gauge your intensity by telling you your average heartbeats per minute.

This can be be helpful if you have a tendency to sell yourself short and not push yourself hard enough. It can also be helpful if you are bad at pacing yourself and push too hard at the start.

The biggest drawback of wearing a heart rate monitor is that it can be uncomfortable, especially during longer runs. They often have an elastic band that wraps around your torso, which can get sweaty and start to feel heavy after several miles. Many heart rate monitors have other features as well, like calorie counters (which don’t always give accurate readings).

While heart rate monitors have their pros and cons, I think that they are overall a worthwhile accessory and can be a valuable performance tool. There are other means to track your intensity (like a simple wristwatch, for example), but the heart rate monitor is probably the most reliable, without being too much of a hassle.

Cold Weather Running Tips

Winter is just about here, but that doesn’t mean your running regimen needs to get put on ice. You shouldn’t feel confined to using a treadmill for the next three months either. In fact, if you plan accordingly, running outside in the winter can be fun and invigorating!

Layering your clothing appropriately is very important when running in temperatures in the forties and below. I like to start with compression shorts or pants, and a compression shirt as my bottom layer. Compression shorts and tops are stretchy and should fit you tightly (no you don’t wear underwear with them). Under armor is one brand that I would recommend. Compression gear is also great for preventing chafing.

Depending on how cold it is, the next layer will either be a t-shirt or something a bit heavier like a thermal shirt on top, with track pants or sweats below. The last layer could be a fleece, windbreaker or hoodie, depending on how cold it is. Gloves, hats, and earmuffs become important as well in colder weather.

At first, running in the cold may seem unpleasant, but once you get a mile or so in you’ll warm up and start to feel better. Even though it’s cold, you should still work up a good sweat, so make sure that you drink plenty of water before and after your run (just like you normally do, right?).

Extreme conditions such as snow storms and temperatures below zero could put a damper on your running plans, but if you dress appropriately, you’ll be surprised how much cold weather running you can endure–perhaps even enjoy.

What will you do during your runs this winter in order to combat the cold?

Finding Inspiration at the 2009 NYC Marathon

Blindness and age didn't stop this woman from finishing the NYC Marathon.

Blindness and age didn't stop this woman from finishing the NYC Marathon.

This is a guest post by Mike Lieberman. He came to support me at the marathon, and took some great pictures. (It’s also his voice you hear cheering me on in my marathon video.) In watching the marathon, he was inspired by some of the participants and asked to write a post.

I went to check out Al on Sunday and support him in running his first marathon. Besides supporting him, I found a great source of inspiration while I was waiting for him to run by – the “handicapped runners.” This group included a 75 year old blind woman, a dude with cerebral palsy on a modified bike, an older couple using one of those bikes that you peddle with your hands and some dude with no legs using a similar bike.

I stood there in complete and total amazement. I felt like starting to run myself. The feeling that overcame me was a bit overwhelming.

The only thing that made them handicapped was the label that we placed on them.

It got me thinking about family and friends who come up with excuses as to why they can’t exercise. I don’t expect everyone to run a marathon, but at least doing some form of physical activity to know that you are alive.

Take the stairs, walk for 20 minutes, step away from the TV and do something!

I have a relative who is on Weight Watchers and drives the three blocks to the meetings. Am I the only one that finds that to be ironic?

Or another who complains about all of their “ailments” and does 0 physical activity. These ailments are just excuses for living a dormant life.

It saddens me to see people that are close to me come up with excuses as to why they can’t take care of themselves, then complain about their ailments. handicapped marathoners

You think the 75 year old blind woman says, “I’m blind, I’m not doing this.”

You think the dude with no legs says, “I have no legs, I’m not doing this.”

These runners gave me a whole new appreciation for life, inspiration for working out and taking care of myself. It showed me that with the right attitude, anything is possible.

We are all going through our own thing in life. I get that. It comes down to how you deal with what happens. Are you going to feel bad about yourself and do nothing? Or are you going to take that negative and use it as a source of inspiration?

I’m not sure about you, but I’m certainly not letting a 75 year old blind woman show me up.

Mike Lieberman resides in New York City and provides simple solutions for living in a complex world. Besides his own blogs, he contributes to others across the web. You can find all of his work at CanarsieBK.com and follow him on Twitter @CanarsieBK.

Running the 2009 NYC Marathon

Running the NYC Marathon was such an overwhelming experience. Just getting from my apartment in the East Village all the way out to the start in Staten Island was an ordeal all in itself.

My day started at 5am when I got out of bed and immediately started drinking water and eating bananas. I wanted to be sure I was hydrated and had lots of potassium in my system. Plus I love bananas!

By six I was already out the door and on my way to the train to catch the 7am ferry to Staten Island. After the ferry ride, there was a shuttle bus to the check in area. Then I had to check my bag, wait for a porto-potty and find my way to the start corral. By the time I got there it was already 9:30. Even though at times it was disorienting or frustrating due to the incredibly large crowd (over 40,000 entrants!), the New York Road Runners did a great job organizing this amazing event!

Thousands of us waiting in line to check in.

Thousands of us waiting in line to check in.

The race itself was incredible. The excitement of the crowds, the support of friends and family, and the beauty of the city itself all served to make for an unforgettable experience. The highs were some of the most amazing moments of my life, the lows were among the hardest. I felt great for the first 3 hours of the race but around mile 19 or 20 my legs started to feel very fatigued.

My original plan was to finish in under 4 hours, but I knew I couldn’t keep up a 9 minute mile pace any longer, and if I tried I would be asking for trouble. At that point the game plan simply became to finish the race. From then on I knew that no matter how much pain I was in, even if I had to crawl, I was not going to stop until I crossed the finish line!

I finally made it at 4:22:11, which averages out to almost exactly a 10 minute mile pace. Crossing the finish line was an unexplainably exhilarating feeling, but it was soon followed by one of the worst feelings in the world. When you finish a marathon it hurts to walk, but the only thing that hurts even more than walking is having to stop and stand. And that’s exactly what you have to do for a good twenty or thirty minutes while everyone is huddled together trying to get their bags, take photos, and meet with loved ones. But overall it was an absolute blast! I definitely plan on doing another marathon at some point, but I think my next race is going to be a 5k.

Check out this short video clip of me taken during mile 23:

Rainy Day Running

It’s been raining a lot lately here in NYC. With the marathon looming two weeks away it’s got me thinking about what it would be like to have to run it on a day like today. This past spring I ran in the NYRR Scotland Run. It was a miserable rainy day like today but I gave it my all–and at least I got this great souvenir photo out of it!

Scotland run 09