College Basketball Treadmill Workout

It’s been super cold and snowy in New England, so that has meant lots of treadmill running for this girl. I’m not a huge fan of the ‘mill, but I have a few tricks to keep it interesting. Last week, I shared my SportsCenter progression run. Today, I’ll share another of my super cool treadmill workouts – the College Basketball Fartlek.

First, select a college basketball game. It helps if you’re not terribly interested in the outcome of the game, but care enough to watch. If you get too absorbed in the game, it’s tough to remember the changes. This workout is a fartlek, changing pace and incline according to what’s happening in the game.


The rules are simple –

Begin at an easy run pace and a 1% incline.

During the period of each foul resulting in free throws (i.e. replays, free throws, congratulatory high fives) increase the pace to the pace you would run short track repeats – something like 400s or 600s. For most of us, that’s about a 1.0 mile per hour increase.

During each time out, increase the incline on the treadmill by 3% for the duration of the time out.

It’s a simple, but effective, workout. Enjoy!

SportsCenter Treadmill Workout

It’s a snow day in New England in every sense of the word. Many businesses are closed, the roads are pretty much impassable, and the stores are sold out of everything, including bagged salad (?).

No salad :(


Before things got too bad, I headed to the gym to run, spin, and lift weights. I timed my run so that SportsCenter would be on ESPN so that I could do one of my favorite treadmill workouts. I am not a huge fan of treadmill running, so I’ve come up with a number of themed workouts to pass the time. This is a favorite and a nice little progression workout.


Dr. Rachel’s SportsCenter Treadmill Workout

Begin at a very casual running pace. The pace should ideally be long run pace or slower, what I call “all day” pace – the pace at which you feel like you could run all day – and a 1% incline.

When the ticker on the left changes to a new story, increase the pace by .2 miles per hour for the duration of the story. Repeat the increase for each ticker change.

During the commercial breaks, return to the casual, run all day pace.

Any time a “Top Ten” comes on, increase the incline by 1% for the duration of the Top Ten.

If a “This is SportsCenter” commercial plays during SportsCenter, rest on the treadmill edges for the duration of the commercial.

Simple, effective, and a fun way to pass the time on the treadmill. Enjoy!

Tips for New Runners

My sister in law recently started running and I couldn’t be happier. Dreams of family races are dancing in my head. Yay! Last week, she called me to get some running advice. Turns out she was struggling with running, and, most of the reasons were completely preventable. Inspired by her questions, I submit to you my best advice for new runners, including you Couch to 5k runners in training.

Q&A for New Runners

Why are my toenails bruised?

The short answer – your shoes are too tight. Most new runners start running in old trainers (probably the ones used for mowing the lawn, or going to the gym) and it’s an important rite of passage to buy proper running shoes. If your nails are bruising, your shoes are likely too small. Most runners like shoes at least a size larger than their shoe size (ladies – a size larger than flats, at least a half size larger than pumps). Another common culprit of bruised toenails is bad socks. Socks are largely an issue of personal preference and most runners are quite passionate about socks. Synthetic, wool, or blended socks are your best bet. I’ve written about a few different kinds of socks in my reviews. It’s a good idea to buy socks specific for running that are made from high quality materials. Wicking socks will also help prevent blisters. If new socks and the proper shoes don’t help, bruised toenails may be the fault of your running form or where you run. Downhill running can increase the likelihood of bruising. Consider consulting a running coach or staff at a running specialty store for more help.

How do you tell what pace you’re running and how do you run a consistent pace?

There are lots of great apps and devices for keeping track of pace, but that’s just numeric pace. I think the best way to manage pace when starting as a new runner is by feel. Runners and running coaches often talk about “conversation pace” runs, or the “talk test”. This means that you should run most of your runs at a pace at which you can have an intelligent conversation with a running partner. If you’re panting and can only sputter out phrases, slow down. You’ll be more comfortable, and build fitness faster, if you run most of your runs at a conversation pace. Once you have a good foundation of running, you can increase speed and challenge your fitness with different runs. If you want to keep track of numeric pace, consider downloading a free or low cost app for your phone (RunKeeper, Endomodo, MapMyRun), investing in the Nike+ system (its has an app, too), or making the larger investment in a Garmin Forerunner. The Forerunner line has a GPS-enabled running watch for everyone. Keep track of your runs and pace, using any method that works for you, in a running log. Then, you can review your log to learn more about what works for you as a runner. It also feels great to see evidence of your improvement.

What should I do about post-run soreness?

Rest, ice, and stretch. Self massage also helps. I love my foam roller and The Stick for self massage. Foam rollers are available everywhere and using them is easy. Basically, you lay on top of it and roll your body across it. It’s great for large muscle groups like quads and hamstrings. Google foam roller for instructional videos, helpful tips, and shopping. The Stick is an innovative self massage tool that has rolling washers attached to a longer post. Using it is simple – roll the Stick across sore muscles. Self massage is wonderful for post run soreness.

Are walk breaks ok?

Of course! There are a number of popular methods of running that include planned walk breaks, including the super popular Hal Higdon method. There is no shame in taking a break to walk, stretch, or lower your heart rate to maintain a comfortable pace. Running should be fun and if talking a walk break makes it more comfortable and fun, then do it! There’s also no shame in stopping at stop lights and standing still. Don’t feel compelled to run in place or dance around. Rest is good.

What can I do to control skin breakouts?

My best advice is to change out of sweaty running clothes as soon as possible, but I know that doesn’t always work. Running in sweat-wicking clothing helps. Running clothes that are primarily cotton trap sweat and dirt and that contribute to breakouts. I find it also helps to exfoliate frequently and to wash my face and skin with products that contain salycilic acid. I love the Neutrogena pink grapefruit line and the St. Ives skin clearing line (for a slightly less girly smell). Neutrogena makes skin and body wipes in the pink grapefruit line and they’re wonderful.

What stuff do I really need to make running more comfortable?

You don’t need much to run, but a few small things can make your running life much more comfortable. Invest in quality shoes. They are the most important part of your running life. Clothing that’s made specifically for exercise and has wicking material will make your runs significantly more comfortable. Target has a low cost line, carries everything you could imagine, and specialty retailers like Lululemon, Lucy, Oiselle, and Athleta make great products for women. Don’t run in cotton if you can help it and select seamless or flat seam garments. Body Glide is  a wonderful invention that prevents chafing. I slather it on my feet in wet weather, on seams, and on any body parts that might touch and chafe. Buy some immediately. Purchase some nice socks, particularly if you’re prone to blisters. The blister-prone should also consider getting a box or two of Band Aid Brand Blister bandages. They’re specially made, cushioned bandages that last a long time, are impervious to sweat, and heal blisters. Finally, get a nice water bottle and keep it full. Be sure to hydrate enough, particularly if you live in a hot climate. Some people prefer a handheld bottle (I love mine and wrote about them on the blog), others prefer to stash a bottle mid-run. Either way, a nice bottle helps.

(And one from my brother) How do I stop my nipples from bleeding?

Two words. Nipple Guards. They’re nifty little yellow caps for the nipples. They really help (or so I’m told). Band aids are good (and much less expensive), and, in lower sweat conditions, Body Glide can help. Bloody nipples happen when the water and salt in sweat chafe the sensitive nipples, rubbing the skin off and making them bleed. Protect the nipples with a topical guard and wear proper fitting, wicking shirts.

Tips for New Runners

There you have it. My best advice for new runners, couch to 5kers, and everyone else who’s new to running and has questions. Have a question I didn’t address? No problem! Contact me using the handy link above, tweet me, or find me on Facebook. I’m happy to help.

Staying Motivated After a Race

So you’ve run your first race. It was amazing – you finished, you had fun, and you achieved a goal. Now what? For many runners, there is a post-race lull. This is a normal part of the racing season and post-race lulls are great times to rest, recover, and reevaluate goals. Here are my suggestions to keep a lull from becoming a rut:

  1. Register for another race. Nothing motivates me to stick to my training like having another race on my schedule. I love to schedule new races just after finishing  – a new race always seems like a good idea when I’m still crazy from the joy of finishing.
  2. Stay in touch with running friends. It’s likely that you’ve made or reinvigorated running friendships during training. Keep those friendships up and schedule group runs. Knowing someone is waiting for you outside in the cold at the crack of dawn is highly motivating.
  3. Mix it up. The time period after a race is a great time to try something new – a new distance, a new running group, or a new trail. Keep running fresh and fun.
  4. Cross train. Once you’re out of an active training cycle, it can be good to revisit other activities for a while. Not only will you be ready to return to running after some time off, you might learn how much you love something other than running.
  5. Hire a coach. Need to stay accountable after the end of a group training program or heavy training season? Pick a new goal and hire a coach to help you achieve it. See my post on working with a coach for more.

No matter what you do, stick with running. Find the joy in running and it will repay you with fitness, friends, and lots of fun memories.

Eight Tips for Your First Half Marathon

I can’t believe time has gone so quickly, but my contract coaching with Fleet Feet West Hartford is nearly over. The team’s graduation race is coming up in just two short weeks. We will all be running the Hartford Half Marathon. I can’t wait! Until then, here are my tips for a great first half marathon experience:

  1. Run to finish. A great, and perfectly respectable goal, for a first half marathon is to finish. I like to keep my standards just a bit higher. I think a good goal is to finish happily. Focus your energy on running for the joy of running. When you run to finish you can soak in the atmosphere, stop to take pictures, and generally have fun. When you have fun in your first race, you’re guaranteeing there will be more. Race for time next time. You’ll never have another first.
  2. Taper properly. Reduce your milage and keep the intensity high the week or two before the race. How much you taper is personal preference, but don’t push yourself in the last two weeks before the race. Tapering will help your body adapt to training and will ensure that you make it to the finish line feeling fresh, strong, and ready to run.
  3. Hydrate, eat right, and sleep all week. Everyone seems to be overly focused on what you eat the night before the race. I think it’s more important to eat right all week. Don’t try new things, eat what you know works for you, and trust in the foods and habits that have gotten you through training. Be sure to get enough sleep the week before the race. Unless you’re a master sleeper, you’ll have a hard time sleeping the night before the race. Be sure you have some extra hours of sleep in the days before the race so that you’re well rested on race day, even if you don’t sleep well the night before.
  4. Prepare for race day the night before. Lay out your clothes, shoes, and gear the night before the race. Put the bib somewhere you’ll be sure to see it. Some people pin their bib right to the shirt they plan to wear. I prefer to put mine in my race bag along with my food, mid-race fuel, and extra gear (just in case!). If your race has a B-tag (the little thing you attach to your shoe), stick that tag on your shoes before you go to bed. If you have everything ready to go the night before, you’ll avoid forgetting something critical in the pre-dawn haze.
  5. Don’t try anything new on race day. Like that new shirt you got at the expo? Don’t wear it. Thinking of trying Gu for the first time. Huge mistake. Do what you know works. Wear the clothes, use the fuel, and run like you have in training. Trust in the training.
  6. Arrive at the race early and stay late. Soak up as much race atmosphere as you can. Come early so that you can park and make it to the starting line with a minimum of stress. Plan to stay after the race to enjoy the food, beer, and vendors that are typical of big races. Have fun and soak it all in.
  7. Remember why you’re running. There will probably be a point in the race when you feel less than stellar. You might be tired, sore, questioning your sanity… Most runners, even experienced racers, experience some niggling doubts mid-race. For me, it’s mile three. At mile three I inevitably wonder what could possibly have made this race sound like a good idea. Remembering why I’m running helps me get through the tough patches.
  8. Have fun! Enjoy your first half. You’ll remember it always.

Me finishing my first half marathon! (That’s me in the grey top and braid)


Twelve Ways to Avoid Running Disaster


As you may know, this summer I’m coaching for Fleet Feet West Hartford’s Half Marathon Training Program. One of my favorite responsibilities as a coach is to pass words of running wisdom along to my runners.

The race is less than a month away and I’ve been thinking about potential race-day disasters (always the optimist). In an effort to help my first time half marathoners avoid problems on the run, I offer today’s installment of Dr. Rachel’s Running Wisdom – Twelve Ways to Avoid Running Disaster:



Solution (whew!)

Blister! Buy socks that include either some synthetic material or wool. Thickness depends on preference. I prefer thin, with reinforced heels. Test your socks several times before wearing them in a race. Some people have luck with applying BodyGlide, or taping blister-prone areas with KT Tape or regular athletic tape prior to adding the sock. Ill-fitting or old shoes will also create blisters, so make sure your shoes are right for your feet. It’s also wise to carry blister-specific band aids if you’re prone to blisters If you notice a blister starting mid-race, don’t wait until it’s gigantic. Adjust your socks, retie your shoe, and give it another mile. If you are carrying a blister-specific bandaid , now’s the time to use it. Failing that, it’s time to get creative. I have used a leaf as a blister barrier. Some races offer Vaseline at the medical stations. A little Vaseline on the budding blister can sometimes help. If nothing seems to help, take off your sock and try that. Worst case, a blister won’t kill you.
Chafing! The best way to prevent chafing is to wear technical running apparel that is designed for fitness. What you wear is personal preference, but be sure that you test anything you intend to wear in a variety of conditions before the race. Do not wear something that you bought at the expo or your race t-shirt unless it’s that or naked. If you notice a bit of chafing, act as soon as possible. The salt in sweat will exacerbate chafing, so wash the area often with water (it’s great to wash the area at the water stops). Many races will have Vaseline or BodyGlide at first aid stations. If you see one on the course, stop. If you see a course official on a bike, ask what they have. You might be able to get something that will help. In a pinch, lotion, chapstick, and even deodorant will work as an anti-chafing balm.
Cramp! Ensure that you’re properly hydrated before the race and in the week leading up to the race. Drink some water, or take some electrolytes at the first sign of cramping. Walk, massage, or stretch the cramped muscle. Drink an extra cup of water.
Stomach upset (morning of)! Don’t eat anything new the night before a race. Go for something tried and true and heavier on protein just in case. Eat something bland and stomach-friendly before the race. Ideally, you’ve practiced eating a number of different things before the race and are prepared with a list of foods that you can tolerate.
Stomach upset (mid-race)! Don’t eat anything new before or during the race. Hope for the best. Sip water. Sipping cool water can help. Slow your pace and focus on deep breathing. Consider reducing your intake of electrolyte drinks or fuels if you know that carbs are a problem for you.
Side stitch! No one really knows what causes side stitches, so your guess is as good as mine. Some people think that applying pressure directly to the stitch works. Others suggest stretching the abdomen by leaning away from the stitch. Others suggest deep breathing, coughing, and yawning. I suggest trying them all. Sometimes, side stitches can be an early sign of dehydration, so make sure you’re hydrating properly.
Shoelaces won’t stay tied! Check out this neat guide to shoe lacing on Runners World, or another on Katie Runs This. Triple knot those laces and keep going!
Headache! Consider taking ibuprofen or another pill of choice, but don’t overdo it. Pain relievers can mask pain that tips you off to something bad going on. Headaches during the race may be a sign of dehydration – make sure you’re hydrated. If you need a pain reliever, most aid stations will have something.
Sick with a cold! Only take a decongestant if you’ve had experience with them prior to running. Some people experience adverse effects, ranging from mild to serious. Consult your doctor if you have questions or need advice. Perfect the “farmer’s blow” and hope for the best.
Breathing doesn’t seem right! Practice a variety of breathing techniques during training runs. Learn ways to relax on the run and to calm yourself, and your breathing. Try coughing or sighing. Many people find that the more they focus on breathing the worse it becomes. A sigh or a cough can trigger a resetting of the diaphragm. If that doesn’t work, try breathing in a three part breath, feeling breath in the chest, ribs, and belly.
Aches and pains during the race! Practice good training – rest, massage, stretch, foam roll, and treat your body right. Kinesiotaping (using KT tape, the best thing ever) can help support muscles and joints pre-race. Most large race expos will have KT taping. If not, learning the technique from a PT or sports medicine professional can be useful. Stretch, walk if you need to, and honor your body. If it’s something more than the normal aches and pains, stop and evaluate the situation. There’s no shame in DNFing one race to focus on healing and running happily into the future.
Embarrassing race photos! I’m sorry. I have no advice. Every single picture ever taken of me in a race is horrifying. I either look like I’m near death or being chased by zombies. Smile when you see the cameras and know that pretty much everyone looks hideous in race photos. If you need cheering up, check out this Tumblr devoted to terrifying race pictures. Their tagline – “if you look good, you aren’t working hard enough”. I like it.

Eleven Random Running Tips

I’m away at a conference, but I’m still on the job as a running coach. Today, I talked with some new runners about getting started in running. It inspired me to think of my top bits of running advice. In today’s installment of Dr. Rachel’s Running Wisdom, I share that random collection of bits of advice with you. For your reading enjoyment, I offer you Eleven Random Running Tips (in no particular order):

  1. Invest in good shoes!
  2. Get some technical running apparel, but don’t worry about looking too cool. Function is more important than looks or vanity. Don’t worry about how cool you look – feeling comfortable = looking fast.
  3. Embrace running technology. Apps, websites, and GPS gadgets can help you track your distance and pace, helping you to become a better runner. I love my Garmin.
  4. Don’t stress about bad runs. Everyone has tough runs and amazing runs. The tough ones help you appreciate the beauty of the good ones.
  5. Drink water all day to pre-hydrate. Don’t expect to run well dehydrated.
  6. Learn how to run hills effectively, particularly if you live in a hilly area. Believing I can conquer even large hills helps me to feel more confident as a runner.
  7. Vary your training to avoid boredom and build fitness. Find running friends and running strangers who can become friends. Run races in strange places. Take risks and try new things (just never in a race lest you have a race disaster).
  8. Create a list of reasons you run. Read it when you don’t feel like running. There will be many such days. You’ll need that list.
  9. Listen to the wisdom of other runners with attention and skepticism. What works for one person might not work for you. But, you might learn something really useful if you listen to other runners. I might never know how to make cheap arm warmers had I not listened to a random person in a far away 10k.
  10. Rest! Take rest days and get enough sleep.
  11. Have fun! Remember, running is best when you enjoy it. Find a way to enjoy every run. I’ve never felt more free, and more in tune with myself, than when I’m running and I love that.

Happy running!

10 Running Songs for 10 Miles

If any of you are like me, the return of fall means the return of a more hectic schedule. The shorter days and packed evenings make fitting in my runs difficult some days. So, it’s back to the treadmill for me. I am easily bored on the treadmill and sometimes turn to my iPod for help passing the miles. In the treadmill spirit, I offer you my super cool running playlist, shrunk to the first ten songs to come up on shuffle:

  1. Call Me Maybe – Carly Rae Jepsen (I know, you hear it everywhere, but it’s kind of run, right? No?)
  2. I Can’t Hold Back – Survivor (I love the 80s!)
  3. Seventeen – Winger (see #2)
  4. Love is a Battlefield – Pat Benetar (yep. #2)
  5. Starships – Nicki Minaj (Anything by Ms. Nicki is a good running song)
  6. Champion – Kanye West (Don’t you know you’re a champion? It’s great!)
  7. Don’t Stop the Music – Rihanna (I love the little sample of Michael Jackson. It’s a fun song)
  8. Letting Go (Dutty Love) – Sean Kingston (It has a super cool beat. It feels tropical.)
  9. High on You – Survivor (It’s the 80s again. Yay!)
  10. (This better be a good one) Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’) – T Pain (Come on, what’s not to like about a song whose title has almost no real words?)

There you have it – ten songs from my actual running playlist. Don’t judge. Just get to rockin’! And, share your favorite song in the comments so I can get some new tunes for the treadmill.

Important disclaimer – Dr. Rachel recommends that you only listen to music while on the treadmill. It can be unsafe to listen to an iPod or other music player while running outside, particularly if you’re alone, or running in a high traffic area. There are often stories of runners hurt, kidnapped, or killed who were plugged in to music and unaware of their surroundings. Please don’t let this be you. Be safe out there.

Seven Ways to Get Back on Track

If you’re anything like me, the start of a new school year throws your schedule completely off. I missed my run today and had candy for lunch. I’m sure this isn’t the best strategy for running success. Luckily, I have a few tried and true strategies to get my training back on track, which I’ll share in today’s installment of Dr. Rachel’s Running Wisdom. Here they are – Seven Ways to Get Back on Track (that I should start immediately!):

  1. Get dressed to run. This strategy is along the lines of “fake it until you make it”. When I’m not feeling all that motivated to run, I put on my running clothes and shoes and wander around the house for a while. If I still don’t feel like running, I’ll head out for a “walk”, or “just one mile”. For extra motivation, I’ll bring Lucy, my running dog, with me. She always love to run. Usually, just getting outside is enough to motivate me. And, if not, at least I got in one mile.
  2. Run a race. Nothing jump starts my motivation like a race. I often sign up for races on impulse, joining friends, or finding a unique race that sounds like a good time. I love the atmosphere at races and being in that I-love-running environment makes me remember that I love running, too.
  3. Review your goals. Sometimes running slumps are the result of goals that are aimed too high or too low. Take a look at your running goals. Do they still make sense given where you are now? Do they need to be adjusted? Would setting a more short-term goal make more sense? I try to review my goals monthly to keep myself on track.
  4. Remind yourself of past running joys. I love looking at pictures of past races and fun runs when I’m off track with my running. Reliving the fun I had in the past helps to rekindle my love of running – and never fails to get me excited to run again.
  5. Join a friend. There’s nothing more motivating than knowing my friends are waiting for me in the pouring rain at 6:30am. Making a commitment to another person to run in a given place at a predetermined time never fails to get me out the door and ready to run. It doesn’t hurt that the run gives me time to complain about the things that have been distracting me or catch up with friends I haven’t seen in a while.
  6. Try something new. Stuck in a rut and bored? Try a new trail, a new workout, or a new group. Freshen up your runs with something new and exciting to challenge your body and mind.
  7. Buy a running treat. Whether it’s a new piece of running gear to add to my wardrobe or a fresh packet of Sport Beans, sometimes a running treat is just what I need. Wearing something new, or trying a new fuel is fun – and I have to be running to do it.

Happy running!

Nine Running Quotes

As you may know, this summer I’m coaching for Fleet Feet West Hartford’s Half Marathon Training Program. One of my favorite responsibilities as a coach is to pass words of running wisdom along to my runners. Today’s installment of Dr. Rachel’s Running Wisdom – Nine Running Quotes to Keep Motivated:

  1. “In running, it doesn’t matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. You can say, ‘I have finished.’ There is a lot of satisfaction in that.”  -Fred Lebow, New York City Marathon co-founder
  2. “Believe that you can run farther or faster. Believe that you’re young enough, old enough, strong enough, and so on to accomplish everything you want to do. Don’t let worn-out beliefs stop you from moving beyond yourself.” – John Bingham (The Penguin)
  3. “We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves…The more restricted our society and work become, the more necessary it will be to find some outlet for this craving for freedom. No one can say, ‘You must not run faster than this, or jump higher than that.’ The human spirit is indomitable.” – Sir Roger Bannister, first runner to run a sub-4 minute mile
  4. “I often hear someone say I’m not a real runner. We are all runners, some just run faster than others. I never met a fake runner.”  – Bart Yasso
  5. “It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.” – George Sheehan
  6. “We have all learned everything we know physically—from walking to running a marathon—by trial and error, so there’s no reason to become our own worst enemies when we suffer a setback. From time to time everyone falls short of their goals. It’s an illusion to believe that champions succeed because they do everything perfectly. You can be certain that every archer who hits the bull’s-eye has also missed the bull’s-eye a thousand times while learning the skill.” – Amby Burfoot
  7. “That’s the thing about running: your greatest runs are rarely measured by racing success. They are moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life is.” – Kara Goucher
  8. “We’re all slower than somebody. There’s nothing to be gained from belittling yourself over how fast you can run; banish all thoughts of ‘Oh, I’m so slow, what’s the point?’ People get lapped even in world-class 10Ks on the track. There wil
    l always be lots of people faster than you. That fact detracts not a whit from your efforts to get faster and the meaning you can find in that pursuit. Any thoughtful runner who has set performance goals and worked hard to reach them will respect any other runner’s quest to do the same. Your effort, not your pace at that effort, is what really matters.” – Scott Douglas
  9. “Running is not, as it so often seems, only about what you did in your last race or about how many miles you ran last week. It is, in a much more important way, about community, about appreciating all the miles run by other runners, too.” -Richard O’Brien

Want more great quotes? Check out Gibson’s Daily Running Quotes on Facebook or the super fun 1,001 Pearls of Runner’s Wisdom book.