How to Choose the Best GPS Watch for Running

Running seems easy enough. Pick a pair of shoes, throw on shorts and a tank top, and head out the door, right? Well, technically, yes (as long as you find the right pair of shoes). But the more you get into running, the more you realize there are tons of gadgets that can make it easier to get faster, get better, or even just easier to plan your runs. At some point, almost every runner will look into upgrading their basic watch for something a little more technical with a few more features. But then that opens a whole other can of worms – how do you pick one? You can ask your running buddy or running group, but we’ve narrowed it down to four of the best here (and even a couple that won’t break the bank).

Budget

Photo Credit: TomTom
Photo Credit: TomTom

The TomTom Runner is your best option if you are on a budget, coming in right around $100 (we found them anywhere from $89.99-$129.99). It’s one of the more basic watches, with an easy to read screen and reliable GPS. It’s waterproof, and can track indoor miles on a treadmill as well.

Mountain Running

Photo Credit: Suunto
Photo Credit: Suunto

While many other GPS watches track elevation, the Suunto Ambit3 Peak is designed for mountain running. It tracks elevation, weather, multiple sports (swimming, running, biking), heart rate, recovery time, and more. The face is easy to read, the buttons are easy to push, and it can sync with your phone. There are a few color options with the straps, too. But this one is gonna cost you a bit more – $400-500.

Just the Basics

Photo Credit: Soleus
Photo Credit: Soleus

It’s really easy to get into all the different features that these watches offer, so if you are looking for something more simple, the Soleus GPS Pulse + HRM ($199) is a good choice. That’s not to say it doesn’t have features, but the main ones include the typical distance, speed, and pace, as well as calories burned, interval timers, and a backlight.

The One Everyone Has

Photo Credit: Garmin
Photo Credit: Garmin

Garmin is a company that has made a name for itself in the running community. With a variety of options ranging from the Forerunner 15 ($119) that is similar to the basic Soleus, to the multi-sport capable Forerunner 735XT ($449.99) that measures everything from the regular distance to VO2 max and lactate threshold estimates. For a mid-price range watch that will have more than enough features for the average runner, the Forerunner 235 ($329.99) is an excellent option.

Feature Photo Credit: Forward Runner

7 Motivational Running Movies to Get You Off the Couch

Some days, the weather doesn’t really cooperate for a run. Some days, our minds or bodies won’t cooperate for a run. The next time you are stuck on the couch for whatever reason, pop in one of these movies that will have you up and at ’em in no time!

1. Forrest Gump

Obviously, this one is on every list. Forrest Gump, played by Tom Hanks, sets out on an undetermined run that ends up lasting three years, two months, 14 days, and 16 hours, after girlfriend Jenny Curran (Robin Wright) leaves him. After covering 15,248 miles, it seems as though the past is behind him. You can even follow the running route in real life, if you feel so inspired.

2. The Jericho Mile

Originally a made-for-TV feature, Peter Strauss plays Larry “Rain” Murphy. Murphy was sent to jail for murdering his father, and as there isn’t much else to do in prison, he runs. The warden notices that he might actually have a talent for it, and allows Murphy to train for the Olympic trials.

3. Running on the Sun

If you ever want some motivation to get off the couch and go for a run, watch this movie and know that it could always be worse. Running on the Sun documents the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon through Death Valley up to Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states.

4. Chariots of Fire

This classic running movie, the historical British drama tells the tale of two men – Eric Liddell, a Christian from Scotland, and Harold Abrahams, a Jewish Brit. Liddell runs for the glory of God, while Abrahams runs to overcome the prejudice that Jewish people were facing in the 1924 Olympics. Their commitment to the sport and personal sacrifice will motivate any athlete, from casual to Olympian.

5. Prefontaine

Even people who don’t run have heard of the legend who’s life was cut tragically short – Steve Prefontaine. The movie documents his life and running career, as well as what it was like for American elite runners in the 1970s compared to international elite runners. Without Limits is a second movie about Pre’s life that also gets good reviews, and came out just a year later in 1998.

6. Personal Best

Let’s hear it for the women! Personal Best is about a fictional group of female track athletes working towards the 1980 U.S. Olympic trials,  but features several American athletes from the time. The title is what all the women are left with when the U.S. decided to boycott the summer Olympics in 1980.

7. Run Fatboy Run

Most of these movies are pretty serious, so if comedy is more up your alley, check out Run Fatboy Run. Directed by David Schwimmer, comedian Simon Pegg (from Shaun of the Dead) gets motivated to run a marathon to win back the love of his life. You’ll surely appreciate all of the running puns included in this one.

Feature photo credit: telegraph

What to Do When You Get Running Cramps

The dreaded running cramp. It’s probably already happened to you, and if not, consider yourself lucky. Cramps, or side stitches, are maybe not the worst thing that can happen to you as a runner, but they can be pretty bad.

The best thing you can do is try to prevent them from happening in the first place:

  • Don’t eat or drink too soon before running. For most people, this means no more than 1-2 hours before heading out, but see what works for you.
  • If you take hydration with you on the run, bring one bottle of plain water and one with electrolytes. Sometimes cramping can occur because of an electrolyte imbalance in your body.
  • Take small sips vs. big gulps when you are out running.
  • Try to keep your breathing even. Beginners often get nervous or run too fast and breathe irregularly.
  • Stay hydrated throughout the day, instead of chugging water before you run.
  • Warm-up properly. Get your whole body ready to run!

But even the most careful (or experienced runner) can still get a side stitch. If that does happen, the first thing you should do is check your breathing. Most of the time, focusing on and regulating your breathing can ease the cramp.

Walk for a minute and put your hands on your stomach. If your stomach isn’t moving in and out with your breath, your breathing is too shallow. Focus on deep breaths (also called lower lung breathing). It can also help to press on the side that hurts when you breathe in and release when you breathe out.

Another strategy that can help is to breathe in for two steps and out for one, always on the same side. For example, breathing in for two steps as you land on your right foot, exhaling as you step with your left foot.

If you get a side stitch, walk as long as you need to regulate your breathing and ease the pain. Then continue your workout while being mindful of your breathing.

If all else fails, keep a running log. After documenting for awhile, look for patterns. Do you cramp after eating certain foods for lunch? In certain weather? Certain distances/workouts?

Feature Photo Credit: Greatist.com

6 Mistakes to Avoid as a New Runner

We’ve all been a newbie runner, and trust us – even the most experienced runner makes a mistake every once in awhile. If you don’t have anyone to ask for advice (or might be too intimidated to ask), we’ve got you covered. We have a project in the works that will be much more comprehensive than this (coming soon!), but here are a few of the most common mistakes new runners make and how you can skip the learning curve.

1. Choosing a shoe based on color or price.

While most shoes have better color options these days than just boring white with a few accent colors, this should not be the biggest reason why you choose a shoe. Oftentimes, a particular model will have several colors to choose from, but the most important thing to consider is the fit. With that, we aren’t saying you have to buy the most expensive shoe, but plan on an investment of $70-120, unless you get lucky and find your shoe on clearance. Personally, the most expensive shoes I own are my running shoes because I need them to have the right fit, the right support, etc. If you find a model you love, check online for the previous version of the shoe, which is usually cheaper, and usually not all that different as far as features go.

2. Going too far or too fast too soon.

We know you’re excited, especially if you are trying to keep up with a friend who has been running awhile, but you have to take it slow. Don’t add more than 10% of your weekly mileage t your next week (i.e. if you run 10 miles total one week, don’t add more than one mile next week). It’s okay if you walk and run, and try to find a running buddy who is also a newbie so you can challenge each other appropriately.

3. Not hydrating.

Staying hydrated can make or break a run, and not just while you are actively running. Drink water before and after your workout, and then take a bottle or pack with you on the run if it’s hot, or if you are going out for more than 30 minutes. This varies for everyone, but it’s better to take the water and not need it, than realize that you are super dehydrated midway.

4. Not wearing the right clothes.

When it comes down to it, definitely wear whatever makes you feel comfortable, but investing in some technical sports clothing is probably going to make you feel more comfortable. The fabric is designed to wick the sweat and keep you cool, whereas a fabric like cotton just gets wet and clings to your body.

5. Pushing through the pain.

There is a difference between pushing through feeling crappy because running is hard, and continuing to run when you are in pain. Pain is not a good thing, and generally only gets worse. If you feel something painful, walk for a couple minutes, then try to run again. If it continues to be painful, or you did something that could cause an injury (i.e. tripped and fell), then consider walking the rest of the way back, or even calling someone to pick you up. Even if it is a false alarm, you can always run tomorrow.

6. Trying anything new before a race.

This should probably be number one, because it is the Golden Rule of running – never (ever!) try something new before a race. This means no new shoes, no new clothes (especially not socks), no new gels, no new foods… you get the picture. Race day is the culmination of weeks or months of hard work, and you don’t want to ruin it with an unexpected blister, stomach distress, or anything else.

Feature image credit: RunnersWorldtr.com

7 of the Best Apps for Runners

For most of us, the days of running with just an iPod are gone. We don’t know many runners who don’t head out the door without their cell phone, and it’s a good idea to have one with you anyway if you are going out alone. But lucky for us, as phones have become smarter, there has also been a boom in apps to put on your phone that will make your run easier. Here are seven of them. Prices were accurate as June 2016, but may change at any time!

RunKeeper

Operating System: Android or iOS
Cost: Basic $0, Upgrade $9.99/mo or $39.99/yr

RunKeeper is one of the most popular apps out there, and for good reason – it does a lot. The app features GPS/distance tracking, speed monitoring, caloric output, and activity history. You can set goals, save and find new routes, and even get training plans if you upgrade. You can also link the app with your account on the website.

Spotify Running

Operating System: Android or iOS
Cost: Basic $0, Premium $9.99/mo

If you have RunKeeper, Spotify integrates into that app, but if not, Spotify Running is a great app that chooses music based on your tempo. So if you’re going for the golden 180 steps/minute, then you can set it to that, and the beat will keep you on track.

Daily Burn

Operating System: Android or iOS
Cost: Free 30 day trial, then $12.95/mo

Love running, but like cross training, too? DailyBurn features daily 30-minute, full-body workouts that you can stream from your iPhone or iPad. There’s also a workout library, and a motivating community you can join!

MapMyRun

Operating System: Android or iOS
Cost: Free

Yep, you guessed it – this one is all about mapping your route, sharing your route, and finding new routes to run. You can also track your activity, connect with the website, count your calories, and share your run with your social network.

Zombies, Run!

Operating System: Android or iOS
Cost: Free, but lots of in-app purchases

This app is a great way to mix up your run when motivation is lacking. Each time you start a run, you are given a mission and music. When zombies come, you speed up. Interval training at it’s finest (funnest?). There is also an 8-week 5K training plan that you can get for $1.99.

Strava

Operating System: Android or iOS
Cost: Basic $0, Premium $6/mo or $59/yr

This app is a must-have for anyone who is competitive and has competitive friends. It’s called the “social network for athletes” and doesn’t just let you track your runs and download your Garmin data, but let’s you connect with friends and compete against them in challenges. The premium version includes personalized training and   advanced data analysis options.

Endomondo

Operating System: Android or iOS
Cost: Basic $0, Premium $5.99/mo or $29.99/yr

Another tracking app, that offers basic information: duration, distance, speed, calories burned, and it maps your route. You can also set goals and review your workouts. There is a premium version that offers training plans and coaching. The coolest thing about this app is that you can leave motivational “peptalks” for your friends that also use the app (and they can leave messages for you!).

What apps do you use regularly?

Feature Photo Credit: Georgia Papadon

 

7 Inspirational Running Books

Even the most accomplished athlete needs a little motivation sometimes, not to mention there are some days that the weather just isn’t cooperating. We get it – it’s tough to lace up and head out in a torrential downpour. So we put together a list of inspiring books to read when you’re feeling sluggish, or when you’re stuck inside. We have a feeling that lack of motivation won’t last very long!

Running Through the Wall: Personal Encounters with the Ultramarathon
Neal Jamison

You don’t have to be an ultrarunner to appreciate this book. Jamison interviewed 35 runners about everything from training tips, to pain tolerance, to what is going through your mind at mile 93 of a 100 mile race. Most of the runners aren’t pros, either, so this one might make you feel a little better about your upcoming long run.

Duel in the Sun: Alberto Salazar, Dick Beardsley, and America’s Greatest Marathon
John Brant

In this book, Brant chronicles the story of the men behind one of the greatest U.S. races of all time – the 1982 Boston Marathon. Not just about the race, but what happened to both men afterwards, this well-written story reads almost like fiction.

Running with the Buffaloes: A Season Inside With Mark Wetmore, Adam Goucher, And The University Of Colorado Men’s Cross Country Team
Chris Lear

Many beginner runners don’t know the reputation that the University of Colorado Boulder Cross Country Team has (I know I didn’t). This inspirational story follows the team in their 1998 season while the team was chasing their first national title and Olympic hopeful Adam Goucher (yes, the future Mr. Kara Goucher) was going for his first NCAA cross country title. This book goes inside the mind of the amazing, yet controversial coach Mark Wetmore, and gives readers a glimpse of what life and training is like for some of the best.
 
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
Haruki Murakami

When Murakami decided to train for the New York City marathon, he also decided to write about the journey. This memoir about the intersection of his obsession with running and writing, and everything that comes up along the way. He shares his philosophy on running and on life, and is more about the mental process of training for a race instead of the actual training advice.

Sole Sisters: Stories of Women and Running
Jennifer Lin and Susan Warner

This book is a collection of inspiring stories from women from all over the United States. It’s about women who for friendship, for grief, for health, and for everything in between.

The Runner’s Guide to the Meaning of Life
Amby Burfoot

After running for 35 years, and winning the Boston Marathon, you pick up a few tips. Burfoot shares the 15 life lessons he’s learned, essential traits for a runner, and inspirational quotes that have kept him going along the way. This is a wonderful read for any runner, whether you’re a newbie or have been at it for decades.

Pre: The Story of America’s Greatest Running Legend, Steve Prefontaine
Tom Jordan

Just about everyone has at least heard of Steve Prefontaine, the running phenom who tragically died in a car accident at the age of 24. He was destined for greatness and continues to influence the sport today, even though it’s been 40 years since his death.

9 Ways to learn to love running

While some of us are already hooked on running, I know there are people out there who genuinely want to try, but are intimidated. Or have just started running, but don’t really get the “runner’s high” that everyone talks about. Don’t worry – we have put together a great list of ways you can learn to love running and make it part of your lifestyle!

1. Start slow.

It might seem really hard right now, but I promise you that it gets easier (and then you step it up and it gets hard again, but that’s another story). Start slower than you think you need to go, and gradually work your way up to a faster pace or longer distance. Also? It’s okay to walk. You could try the run/walk method, or just walk when you feel like you need to.

2. Set a goal.

For some people, that might be to finish one mile without stopping, for others that might be to run a 5K, or even a half marathon. Whatever it is, a goal can get you in a rhythm and give you a sense of accomplishment.

3. Get some external motivation.

For some people, setting a goal is a great motivator, but for others it might be something like finding a friend or club to run with, picking a new trail to explore, or signing up for something like Fun Run Box to try out fun new things on your run.

4. Find some good music.

Music can turn even the most boring run into a fun work out, if you pick the right tunes. Create a running playlist of your favorite songs for your phone/iPod, or check out Spotify Running – it picks songs that match your running tempo.

5. Keep it simple.

Don’t try to get crazy with all kind of work outs, just keep it simple and take it easy. This really basic training plan from Runner’s World requires just 30 minutes, three days a week.

6. Schedule it in.

If you stick with it and make running a habit, it will become easier. In fact, it will become one of the best parts of your day!

7. Do a little research.

Check out a book, search online, and pay attention to what you eat before your run, how long you need to wait before heading out, whether you need to take hydration, what kind of hydration to take, etc. You want to feel good while you are running, and that’s part of it.

8. Get the right shoes.

Again, you want to feel good on your run, so visit a local running store and get fitted for the right shoes. This will decrease your potential for injury and keep you out there (which is the goal, after all).

9. Remind yourself of why you started in the first place.

Maybe you want to be healthier for yourself or for your family, maybe you want to meet new people, or maybe you just want a new challenge – whatever your reason for starting is, remind yourself of it when the going gets tough. We believe in you!

Why did you start running? What helped you get “hooked”?

Feature Image: SimonWhitaker

9 Ways to Recover After a Long Run or Race

Recovery. One of the most important (and overlooked) components of a training plan. According to RunnersWorld.com, recovery is:

“the restoration of energy-producing enzymes inside the muscles, functional proteins, fat and carbohydrate stores, and the regeneration of the endocrine and immune systems, Stellingwerff says. Recovery comes down to repairing, resting and refueling–while still allowing the body to adapt to the training workload and reap fitness gains. So the seconds, hours and days between all those bouts of running matter.”

But what is the best way to start the recovery process after a long run or race? It’s normal to be tired and have some soreness after pushing your body, but there are a few things to try and see what helps your body bounce back faster.

Before you worry about recovery, though, make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating good foods, and staying well-hydrated. The better you take care of your body when you aren’t running, the more you can set yourself up for success in the first place.

Now, on to the recovery options!

1. Recovery Drinks

While studies have shown that chocolate milk and coconut water could be good options post-workout, a drink specifically made for recovery, with a 3:1 or a 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio is going to give you the best returns. Ideally, get this down within 30 minutes of finishing your activity.

2. Eat Something

If you didn’t eat something with your recovery drink, the other window for consuming fuel for optimal recovery is one to three hours post-run. This would be a good time for a nutritious meal.

3. Ice Bath

The ice bath is a strategy that some swear by, while other studies show that long-term use of the ice bath can actually hamper recovery. That being said, anyone who has soaked their legs in the cold ocean after a long run knows that it seems to have some benefit. Cold water (it doesn’t even have to be freezing!) can reduce inflammation and improve circulation to your muscles.

4. Massage

Getting a massage on sore, tired muscles will reduce swelling and put you back at 100% more quickly. The sooner after a hard workout, the better.

5. Foam Roller

Can’t afford or don’t have time for a massage? Pull out the foam roller or tennis ball, and get on those tired muscles!

6. ROLL Recovery R8

The ROLL Recovery R8 is a relatively new recovery product that has several spring-loaded wheels. You can get a deeper massage than a foam roller, but still do it on your own at home.

7. Compression Socks

While there is conflicting information about compression socks as well, they are known to reduce next day soreness. Like massage, the sooner you get them on after a hard workout, the better.

8. Stretch

Don’t let those tired muscles tighten up! A good time to stretch is right after your run, or after a warm shower, and can be anything from this squat to a set of post-run stretches.

What methods of recovery have you had success with after a long run or race?

Feature Photo Credit: Resilience Fitness & Nutrition

15 Inspiring Runners to Follow on Instagram

With more than 400 million users, it seems like just about everyone is on Instagram, so naturally it’s one of the first places we turn for a little running inspiration (runspiration?). Whether you are looking for new places to add to your dream destination list, checking to see what kind of training your favorite pro did this week, or just trying a little inspiration to get through your next workout, we’ve got you covered.

1. Deena Kastor

Deena is one of the most famous women runners in the United States, holding the American records in the marathon and half marathon. She is currently writing a book.

deena kastor

2. ashruns100s

A six-time 100 miler, Ashley posts amazing pictures from the trails and her race adventures that will have you jonesing to hit the dirt.

ashruns100s

3. runeatrepeat

If you’ve been running for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard someone say “I run so I can eat.” Monica blogs and posts inspirational pictures of quotes and (of course) food.

runeatrepeat

4. Runnerspace

This is a great account to follow to keep up with the track and field scene.

runnerspace

5. Meb Keflezighi

Recently qualifying for the 2016 Summer Olympics, Meb also won the Boston Marathon in 2014, becoming the first American man to win the event since 1983. Check out his account to see how he trains, where he trains, and what running-related events he’s up to.

meb

6. Kara Goucher

Another well-known female runner, Kara posts about her training, her life, and her nutrition.

kara goucher

7. Rickey Gates

Looking for some trail inspiration? Check out Rickey Gates, a photographer, writer, and trail runner.

rickey gates

8. mileposts

Dorothy is the creator of the I Run This Body movement, and is always posting pictures with positive messages. She is also training to qualify for Boston 2017.

mileposts

9. annafrosty

Anna loves running and exploring the mountains and regularly places in ultras.

annafrosty

10. Voltwomen

Voltwomen is dedicated to celebrating the women’s running community.

voltwomen

11. InstaRunners

Reposts of fun pictures from runners all around the world.

instarunners

12. Usain Bolt

Mostly running (races and training), some random pictures from his life, and the occasional shirtless photo (your welcome, ladies) of the one of the world’s fastest men.

usainbolt

13. Sage Canaday

This guy runs pretty much any distance on any surface, and has the photos to prove it. He’s pretty fast, too, having qualified for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, and won a handful of 50K, 50M, and 100K races.

sagecanaday

14. Scott Jurek

Ultrarunner, Appalachian Trail Hike-Thru speed record holder, and vegan, Scott posts about training and eating in Boulder and beyond.

scottjurek

15. Runners Community

Runners Community features a “Runner of the Week” and boasts “if you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far.”

runners community

Who is your favorite runner on Instagram? Share below in the comments!

Quick Guide to Running with Your Dog

If you are a runner and have a dog, chances are you would love to be able to run together. And even if your dog pulls, stops to pee every 5 seconds, or is terribly out of shape, in most cases it’s simply a matter of getting them in shape and used to running. That being said, check with your vet before starting your dog on a running program, just to make sure your four-legged friend is as ready as you are!

1. Make sure your dog is ready.

Besides a vet visit, this means:

  • staying up-to-date on vaccinations,
  • nail trimmings, grooming (if applicable),
  • sunscreen (if your dog has super light skin or thin fur),
  • make sure your dog is older than 1.5 years.

2. Get the equipment. 

You may want to get your dog a reflective collar or even a light to attach to his harness or collar. I prefer to run with my dog with a harness, just in case he sniffs something – I don’t want to jerk his neck.

You can also get a hands-free waist leash, which will make your life a lot easier and won’t interfere with your running form as much as holding a regular leash might.

3. Start easy.

If you haven’t been walking your dog regularly because of winter weather, start with walking a few days a week. As you are walking with your dog, don’t let him stop and sniff without a command such as “go ahead”, “okay”, or “sniff”, so that he learns that he can’t just stop and sniff anywhere he wants (which will be helpful when you start running).

4. Introduce running and gradually build up your dog’s endurance.

Depending on your dog, this may be a running/walking program, or a jogging program. Start with 10 minutes of running and see how your dog does. Add 10 minutes each week until you get up to your desired time/distance. At first, your dog may want to go much faster, but he will get used to your pace in time and after that initial excitement.

5. Other things to consider:

  • If it’s too cold or your dog has shorter hair, he may need a jacket.
  • In the summer, try to go in the morning or later in the evening when the pavement is cooler. Also, don’t give your dog boots in the summer because he may overheat.
  • Bring extra water for your dog when your runs start to get longer.