Tag Archives: runners

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.

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?

Run Santa Run 5K

This past Saturday, December 14th, 2013, I finally made it out to West Reading to run the “Run Santa Run 5K”. I wanted to do the race last year, but already had a race scheduled for Sunday and was really unsure about running a race two days in a row. This year is a different year.

We started in front of my favorite running store, A Running Start, in West Reading, PA. The store is small but fabulous. The staff are all avid runners and can steer you to the right gear. They are also huge supporters of our local running club, the Pagoda Pacers (of which I’m also a member). Everyone racing was unsure if we were going to race at all because of an impeding snow storm. We lucked out that the meteorologists were wrong and the storm didn’t really start until well after the race was done.

The race started on time in the frigid cold. My intrepid wife, Gia, has been joining me for races this winter. I love doing this stuff together.

Waiting in the starting line for the gun. Brrr.

Waiting in the starting line for the gun. Brrr.

I’ve done a few other 5K races in the West Reading area, and remember it as being a little hilly. In case you were wondering, it still is. 🙂

There were over 600 Santas out there on Saturday. It was a really great race. West Reading is very charming, and there is really no better way to see it than out and around on foot.

Waiting near the finish line for Gia to arrive. Run, Santa! Run!

Waiting near the finish line for Gia to arrive. Run, Santa! Run!


We both turned in respectable times. I came it at 26:54 and Gia got 33:31. Not a record for me, but I’m happy with it. Gia’s been training up for the last 6 weeks or so, and I’m really proud of how well she’s doing.

I’m already looking forward to next year! Do you have a favorite holiday run?


My Thoughts on Boston

Like most of the world, I’m still reeling from what happened at the Boston Marathon yesterday afternoon. The various news networks are all on-site showing every detail of the sheer horror that this cowardly act has wrought. I sat watching the news last night, debating if I should write this yet, or wait a while to sort out my thoughts a bit more. I decided to sleep on it.

I woke up this morning to the news pouring in. Instead of sitting and staring at the news, I put on my gear and went for a run. It’s really when I do my best thinking. That act alone decided for me that I needed to get fingers to keyboard right away. There are a few things that need to be said that aren’t being said yet in the major media.

While I have no idea who did this, or what their motive was, I can tell you that if whoever did this was trying to scare runners, they were sorely mistaken. Distance runners are not just physically tough, but mentally tough. Really, really tough. Short distance running is all physical. Long-distance running is all mental. These marathoners know how to pace their bodies and keep on running when that little voice inside their head starts screaming for them to stop. Twenty-six miles is no joke. Think about it. Most people I know think driving in their car somewhere that is 26 miles away is “too far”. Marathoners RUN that. Without stopping.

Another thing not being discussed is how runners are a community. A strong community. Most people who don’t run distance races might not know this, but runners are extremely positive and encouraging to other runners. This was something I didn’t realize until one of my first “long” races, where complete strangers were giving me high-fives and words of encouragement as I completed my run. I found myself starting to do the same. The pattern perpetuates itself in a very affirming and positive way. You can’t shake community like that with anything.

To me, running is a celebration of life and health. I’m 40 years old, my hair is turning gray, but hey, I’m out there and I can still run. Nothing is going to turn me away from that. I’m pretty sure that most of the runners in Boston feel the same way. So whoever did this, you lost before you even started. Nothing you did is going to stop runners from running, or stop the Boston Marathon (or any other big run around the country) from happening in the future. We are runners, and we’re tougher than you. We are runners, and have faced down injury, fatigue, and long miles. You don’t frighten us. Not even a bit. Now that you decided to mess with our pinnacle event, this community is going to do everything it its tough power to bring the full weight of justice to bear on you. I hope you can run fast and long, because you’ll have to if you think you’re going to outrun us. We’re going to catch you.