Category Archives: Exercise

Winter Blues

This has been a rough Winter so far for the North Eastern United States. We’ve had lots of snow and ice storms on a pretty regular tempo throughout the season (actually it started early this year) and we are not in sight of the finish line just yet.



So how does a runner keep up with training during weather like this? Short answer: I’m not really sure. I’m only in my second year of calling myself a runner, and last Winter we barely had any snow at all so I was able to run outside for nearly the entire season. So I am far from an expert, but I can share how I am trying to keep up with everything.

1. Just get out and do it. When there is not snow covering the roads and sidewalks, I force myself to go outside and run. I invested in a couple sets of good running thermals, which I talked about in detail last Winter, and put on another layer or two depending on the temperature and just go do it. I’m typically chilly for the first mile, but after that, it usually isn’t bad at all. In fact, I rather like running in the cold. It is easier for me than running in the hot, humid Summers we usually have around here. I don’t get overheated, the air is crisp and clean, and there is usually no one else crazy enough to be outside running, so I have the sidewalks and paths to myself.

2. Sign up for a race! This is one of my favorite tricks. If I put money down on a race entry fee, I’m going to get up and go to the race. The Winter races around where I live are always a lot of fun and have really good numbers of people show up. Go and get your run on with some fellow running nuts!

The Frosty Finish Line!

The Frosty Finish Line!

3. Either find a gym nearby or invest in a treadmill for your home. I bit the bullet this year and bought a treadmill. I plan on doing a Tech Review post on it soon, so I won’t belabor the details of which one and what it does just yet, but I have it in the basement and it has been a savior to my training plan (my wife’s, too!) This Winter has just been so bad that running outside has regularly been impossible. There are some really great treadmill training programs out there, and pointers on how to make sure your treadmill workout is as effective as going outside is.  Yes the treadmill can get monotonous. Yes the treadmill can get boring. The trick for me is finding something to occupy my mind other than staring at the progress statistics on the treadmill screen. My best trick is putting my iPad up on the treadmill console and streaming a Netflix movie or TV show to watch while I run. I find that I get absorbed into the story and forget (to an extent) about my progress.

So that’s it. No magic tricks, nothing exceptionally out of the ordinary here. I’m keeping my head down and getting in as much training as I can, still keeping my eye on that April Half-Marathon I’ve signed up for (see? money is a powerful motivator!) I’m just as sick of Winter as the next person, and am looking forward to Spring and more sunshine just like everyone else.

How are you making it through the Winter? Do you train? Or Hibernate? Do you have any tricks to share on staying motivated during the cold months? I’d love to hear from you.

Feeling Gravity’s Pull

I ran my first Half-marathon last year (The ODDyssey in Philadelphia) in 2:15. I ran my second Half-marathon last November (The Rock-n-Roll Half in Las Vegas) in 2:12. I had an unrealistic goal for that second race, of finishing Sub-2 hours. My last training run where I did the whole 13.1, I ran in 2:09, so I really thought I could shave those last 9 minutes off and slide in to the finish. Long story short, I was disappointed.

So what did I do? I came home, figured out my next Half-marathon, and got into training. My next race is in April, so my 16-week training plan actually started the week of Christmas. I’m using the free, Sub-2 hour Half-Marathon training program in RunKeeper.  At the time I signed up, I was really focused on the goal. I reviewed the training plan and said to myself, “Sure I can fit in runs 5 days a week.” I had been training 4 days a week, so the extra day didn’t seem like too much more.

I think I was wrong. Here I am 6 weeks in, and I find myself beginning to struggle. The runs are getting long, which in and of themselves is not unreasonable, but trying to fit a 9 or 10 mile run in on a weekday is getting harder and harder. The schedule has me running Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, then Saturday and Sunday. Tuesday is usually some sort of strides (sprints), Wednesday is a steady, medium paced longish run, Thursday is Intervals, Saturday is short and slow, Sunday is race-paced long runs. The weekend stuff is fine, it is the weekend. It’s the weekday stuff that is starting to crush my soul. Mornings are hard, because it takes so long. It is very cold and dark outside, and really risky to try and get in a run right now. Lunch time is better, but again, it takes over an hour to get the plan run in, then shower and get back to work. Evenings are tough, but not impossible.

So now that I’ve over-shared my frustrations, I guess my questions out to the world of runners are:

  • How do you fit your training into a busy workday?
  • How do you stay committed to a goal when the training starts getting tough?
  • How do you become an accomplished runner and still hold down a demanding career?

I’m sure all of this can be done, and part of me knows I can do this. It gets hard to see the forest for the trees sometimes.

I’m really interested to hear what others have to say. What do you think?

Tech Review: Virtual Trainer Bodyweight on the iPad

Every amateur runner eventually faces the fact that “just running” isn’t enough. If you want to improve your times and/or lengthen your distances, you must must must (must) cross-train. Cross-training strengthens your body in ways just running cannot, and helps you run better, stronger, and with less of a chance of injury.

But if you are like me, and have a demanding job during the day, it can often be a challenge to find the time to get a run in, let alone try to squeeze something else into the mix. Believe me, I get this.

I used to be strictly a morning runner. I’d get up, walk the dogs, then head out to clock my miles. I was easily able to get everything in, shower, and get to work on time. That was last year. This year, I’m training harder for a Spring Half-Marathon and eyes on my first full Marathon in the fall, so my training runs have become much longer, and I can not fit my runs in during that morning gap any longer. I’d either have to get up earlier and go run in the dark and freezing outside (I already get up at 5:45am on weekdays), or be late to work every day (not really an option). So I started moving my runs to later in the day, either during my lunch break (easier to justify a long lunch than being late in the morning) or after work. Which left me with a gap of time in the mornings that I could utilize for something else.

Here’s where I found the Virutal Trainer: Bodyweight for my iPad. I was searching for something I could do with little or no gym equipment at home, but would not take too much time and still be a good workout. This app delivers on that, and then some.

The app costs $5 in the Apple App Store, but is well worth the small investment. The main screen opens up to a large array of exercises demonstrated by human beings in HD.

VT Main Screen


You can tap any one of the exercises and the demonstration video begins immediately. There are a couple of pre-built workout routines on the right, and you have the ability to make your own.  I started with the Tabata Workouts. There are two inside there, a Full Body routine, and an “Ass & Abs” routine as well. If you aren’t familiar with Tabata, it is similar to CrossFit. You do an array of exercises for 20 seconds each, with 10 seconds rest in between. You run through your list of exercises multiple times (you choose when you start, the default is 3 rounds).

Before you start your workout, you can touch any one of the exercises, and the demonstration video pops right up and you get to watch a real human demonstrate for you.

"Prisoner Squat" demonstration


Once you are ready to start, you select the routine you want to use, how many cycles of the routine you want to do, and hit the “Workout” button. Another really nice feature is that you can Air Play the videos to your Apple TV or Mac computer, so you can watch the demonstration videos on a larger screen if you want to. I have 2 Apple TV’s in the house, so I use this.

Next Exercise Prep

You get a preparatory command for the next exercise you’re about to do. They show the name and a demo video while the timer counts your 10 second rest period, then it is time to GO!

Go Go Go!


You do the exercise at your own pace as much or as little as you can during those 20 seconds, then you get a very short 10 seconds to rest and get into position for the next exercise.



I was amazed at how torched I was after the first time I ran through this routine. Doing 3 run-throughs of the Full Body Tabata workout took just 12 minutes, but I was drenched with sweat and muscles quivering. How efficient is that? Who can’t spare 12 minutes in the morning? I love it!

There are tons of other apps in their library. I like this one because it doesn’t require any gym equipment. I have a little at home, but not much. Here’s a list of their app library. None are free, but most are only $5.

VT App Library


I’ve been using VT: Bodyweight for 3 weeks now, and I can really tell a difference. The scale is creeping down again, my BMI is also creeping down. I’m definitely feeling stronger during my runs. I’ll probably stick with the built-in workouts for a while longer, then start to build a few of my own. There are some exercises in there I’d like to include, and one unfortunate app oversight is that you cannot edit the existing workouts, or even copy them to a new list to edit. Oh well. Small deal for me.

Are there any great apps you use to help you cross-train?