Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance

A Book Review

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At first glance, this book by Alex Hutchinson would seem to be just another running book. After all, that’s what the cover photo shows. But in reality the book examines the slippery nature of endurance by looking not only at running, but also mountain climbers, skiers, cyclists, free diving, and more. Regardless of the activity, the boldest among us continue to push the known boundaries of endurance.

Is There a Limit to Endurance?

This is the central question of the book. It turns out that endurance is analogous to nutrition; every day it seems some “qualified person” comes up with the latest and greatest theory. Case closed; mystery solved. Well, until the next day. Then someone comes along and changes the game; moves the marker.

New records are constantly being set, from 25-year-old medical student Roger Bannister’s 4-minute mile to Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya setting a new world marathon record in Berlin. He ran an amazing time of 2:01:39. Ask anyone who is a distance runner; this time is phenomenal under any circumstance. Kipchoge says, “It’s not about the legs; it’s about the heart and the mind.”

He’s on to something there and that is precisely what this book explores. We can talk about physiology all day long but there is something else going on here. The real issue is that the “something” is so hard to quantify.

This book is a must-read (or in all honesty a must-listen since I listened to the audible.com release on my long runs) for any of us weekend warriors who are looking for a little bit more inspiration. The latest nutritional supplement may give us an edge or not but is it real or a placebo effect? Does it matter? You decide.


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10 DIY New Year Projects to Tackle

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The clock is ticking down to the new year. That means many things but here are two to consider. Since spring will soon be here it’s time to start planning new year projects. After all, it is a time of new beginnings. Also, right around the temporal corner is income tax refund time to fund those new projects. This may be good news for many–under President Trump’s tax bill, the marriage penalty is mostly gone and the standard deduction is vastly improved.

With those considerations in mind, consider these 10 home improvement and personal improvement projects.

Start Exercising More

A healthy runner is a happy runner.
A healthy runner is a happy runner.

Pick your sport. For me that means running. Worried about the cold weather? Don’t. It’s not a problem with these cold weather running tips. Other activities are good candidates and one bit of good news is that many are quite inexpensive. Walking and running really only requires comfortable clothing and the right shoes. Cycling is great but requires a heavier investment. Swimming is good if you have access to a pool or open water such as a lake or a beach.

Install a Rainwater Collection Barrel

A Rainwater Harvesting Barrel
A Rainwater Harvesting Barrel

Rainwater collection or rainwater harvesting as it is sometimes called is becoming increasingly popular. The idea is simple; as you can see in the above photo, you just install the barrel under the downspout from your rain gutter. A screen on the top keeps leaves and other debris out. The black overflow tube at the top can be directed wherever you like and the spigot at the bottom is threaded to accept a garden hose. It works on the gravity feed principle and provides water for your garden or flower bed. Need more water? Link the overflow tube to another barrel. Using this water not only saves money on your water bill, but plants prefer the pH of rain as opposed to tap water.

Install an A/C Condenser Coil Misting System

Cool-N-Save A/C condenser misting paddle
Cool-N-Save A/C condenser misting paddle

This simple innovation will really save on your electrical bill during the summer heat. When the compressor kicks on, the upward breeze from the fan lifts the paddle. This opens the valve allowing cool water to flow to the four misting nozzles. This lowers the ambient air temperature which reduces the amount of work the condenser coils must do. This inexpensive tweak saves money and installation requires only about 30 minutes and some basic hand tools.

Make Needed Roofing Repairs

A new roof with a dormer
A new roof with a dormer

Having a solid, secure roof is critical. They can really take a beating during the winter. They should be inspected, and repaired if needed, twice a year. Minor repairs such as replacing individual shingles or flashing can be done on an individual DIY basis. For more extensive work, hire a roofing contractor.

Build a Walk-In Kitchen Pantry

A Walk-In Kitchen Pantry
A Walk-In Kitchen Pantry

If your home is anything like ours, there’s just not enough storage space in the kitchen. My solution? I built a walk-in kitchen pantry. As you can see in the photo, the back door in the kitchen opened into the garage. I just “stole” some space from the garage and installed the walls (with insulation), turned the existing door into a case opening, and added an energy-efficient door into the rest of the garage. If you are comfortable with framing, hanging drywall, and laying ceramic tile, this is a great weekend DIY project. Follow the link for details.

I certainly hope these DIY New Years projects have inspired you. If so, I would appreciate you sharing these pages with your friends. Have a great New Year and thanks for visiting!

See the Next 5 DIY New Year Projects Here


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Should Runners and Others Supplement with CoQ10?

Health Benefits of CoQ10
Health Benefits of CoQ10
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To use fitness supplements or not to use fitness supplements; that is the question. Like nutritional needs, the definitive answer seems to flip-flop periodically depending on the most recent studies. Sometimes these “studies” are actually funded by a supplement manufacturer and that is certainly a red flag.

But many times they are conducted independently by reputable sources — these should be taken more seriously. Look for researchers from universities or sports  research labs for the most reliable results.

Do Athletes Have a Special Need for CoQ10?

The general consensus to this question is “yes.” Although sedentary people also need it, runners and other fitness enthusiasts have special needs to satisfy. As the image at the top of this article shows, it helps in areas such as energy, inflammation, cardiovascular, and soreness (think 
DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).

Another area of benefit is the antioxidant CoQ10 provides. Antioxidants protect us from the damaging effects of free radicals. These are produced in our bodies when we are exposed to things like sunlight, chemicals, and airborne pollutants such as vehicle exhaust fumes. So if you are out running the roads in the daytime…

The Problem with CoQ10 Supplements

There’s always a catch, right? Well, there are many brands on the market but they are not all created equal. The ones you want to avoid are the synthetic ones that are made from tobacco leaves; they are fairly ineffective. These are referred to as the “cis form.” 

The type that really delivers is the “trans form.” This is identical to the CoQ10 produced naturally within the body. The label may say trans form or Ubiquinone USP Grade. Further, absorption can be an issue. Personally I take the Qunol Ulra CoQ110 which boasts 3 times the absorption of regular products because it is both water and fat soluble.

Two More Considerations

First, you should know that the natural amount of CoQ10 present in your body drops as you age. By the time your 50th birthday rolls around the depletion really begins to accelerate.

Secondly, statins, which are prescribed to lower cholesterol, severely deplete your body’s natural levels of CoQ10, which can be very dangerous. A Columbia University study found that within 30 days, your levels of CoQ10 can be decreased by half.

So the bottom line? If you work out, or are approaching 50 years of age, or are prescribed a statin drug, you should seriously consider supplementing with CoQ10.


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Adidas Men’s Running Supernova Tokyo Jacket Review

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Adidas Men's Running Supernova Tokyo Jacket
Adidas Men’s Running Supernova Tokyo Jacket

With the weather cooling off and the rain coming more frequently I went in search for a dependable running jacket for running in the cold weather. As an Amazon Prime member I had a plethora of choices. One thing I always do is read the reviews on the Amazon page carefully. I have found that if people actually take time to write the reviews, you can discount some and regard others with credibility but you can always spot common threads. Thus I settled on the Adidas Men’s Running Supernova Tokyo Jacket.

Fancy name and I haven’t figured out what is “Tokyo-ish” about it but I give it 5 stars. I had narrowed my choice down between this one and a cheaper competitor but the competitor’s Amazon reviews had so many complaints about zippers that I nixed it. The last thing I want to fuss with on a drizzly run is crap zippers.

Water Repellent Features of the Adidas Jacket

First, I should mention that it is super comfortable. Up until this point I had been using a Tyvek jacket from one of the ultramarathons I had done in the past. The problem is, Tyvek material does not breathe although it is perfect for wind-breaking when you are warming up before a race. No wonder it is used to wrap houses before the siding goes on.

The Amazon page claims, “Water Repellency through buttery soft knitted fabric that rejects water and keeps you dry.” This is true. I had to wait for a cold, drizzly day to verify this and sure enough, the rain beads up on it like a freshly-waxed car. While still breathing, I might add. How it does both, I do not know. It brings to mind the old joke of two rednecks discussing the virtues of a thermos bottle. One says, “It keeps hot things hot and cold things cold.” To which the other redneck replies, “But how do it know the difference?” OK, bad joke, but that’s just me.

adidas Men’s Running Supernova Tokyo Jacket, Semi Solar Yellow, Large

Plenty of Pockets

There is one zippered pocket on the shoulder which is the right size for a cell phone that is lined to keep any moisture out. There are two typical pockets on the outside that you can slip your hands into. Finally, there are two wide pockets on the inside that I like to carry my wallet and keys in when I make that inevitable stop at the grocery store after a run.

I might add here that the jacket did not come with a hood as the Amazon page claimed. It did not disappoint me too much because I’ve never been a hoodie kind of guy, yo. But if this is something that is important to you, take it into consideration.

This jacket also features a “tail” (think of a tuxedo tail without the split). It looks a little goofy but comes in handy keeping your butt dry in the rain. If you are not using it there are snaps to tuck it up inside. Handy, yes?

Many Colors to Choose From

I really wanted a high-visibility color like the orange or lime green but I ended up choosing the blue pattern (see the pic at the top of this page). The solid colors have a kind of “transparent” look on the sleeves that I didn’t cotton to.

So, all in all, I give this Adidas Men’s Running Supernova Tokyo Jacket five stars for comfort, water-repellency, zipper quality, breathability, and overall workmanship. It is not the cheapest running jacket at about $60 but if you are an avid runner and spend your winter hours pounding out the miles with the chance of rain, sleet, or snow, it’s well worth it.

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Running in the Cold Weather

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Running in the Winter Snow
Running in the Winter Snow

When I headed out the door this morning to put out the trash and the recycling bin I noticed a small change in the air. OK, the temperature was almost exactly like yesterday and the humidity was not giving me a break, but the air had a certain feel to it. We have turned the corner.

Fall Season Running

Here in South Texas, fall is the best time for running. Spring is good but fall is the best. Maybe it’s just a feeling of relief from the summer heat. Whatever, as long as it cools off.

This doesn’t mean I’m ready to start breaking out the singlets or t-shirts yet (those that I still have left after the flood from Hurricane Harvey) but not having to carry a water bottle is a relief.

I favor trail running in the fall. The trails can be stifling in the summer heat but in the cooler temps with the leaves falling it can be a mystical experience. One caveat–I still have to remember to keep moving; the mosquitoes will find idle bodies.

Winter Running Clothes

When it gets really cold it’s hard to decide what to wear. I like watch caps (or beanies if you prefer) but they can be itchy depending on what they are made out of.

Long sleeve t-shirts work well for me. A windbreaker and a pair of gloves are also nice since they can be put on and removed as the situation calls for. Generally, I don’t need anything on my legs. I don’t know why. Even when I was stationed in the tundra-like state of Maine I didn’t need those long johns on my pins.

That said, I am no stranger to running tights. The better quality ones are light enough to be comfortable without being stifling. Remember that what feels warm enough when you start will quickly become uncomfortable.

Don’t Change Your Running Routine Too Much

When the weather turns cold, it’s tempting to modify the successful training routine. This can be a mistake. What worked before will continue to work. If you are doing marathon training you can still continue your yoga or stretching, just do it inside.

Rather than shortening your workouts, search out better locations. As mentioned above, trail running is excellent in cold weather because it cuts down on chilling wind. But there are other possibilities. The Weather Channel and other sites can give you detailed info on wind direction and strength. Plan in advance.

Running in the cold weather does require a shift in technique but it does no mean abandoning your training plan. It might help to pick a race goal to train for. Setting your sights can also set your outcome.


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Fitbit and the Myth of 10,000 Steps

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The Japanese Manpo-Meter Step Counter

Who doesn’t recall the obese prison guard on Orange is the New Black several seasons ago monotonously stepping in place because, “10,000 steps a day will cause weight loss.”

Well, that’s not rocket science. Sure, calories burned vs calories consumed will result in weight loss. But although Fitbit has capitalized on that and put 10,000 out as a magic number, it is still just an arbitrary number. There’s no there, there. On their site they say, ” When you join Fitbit, the default goal we set for each member is the magical number of 10,000 steps a day.”

Where the Fitbit Myth Started

Although 10,000 steps is just a number grabbed out of thin air, it does have a history and it didn’t start with Fitbit. Back in the 1960s, following the Tokyo Olympics, a Japanese company began selling the MANPO-METER which was basically a pedometer. They decided that 10,000 steps per day was just what the doctor ordered for better health.

Of course, there was no doctor; this was pure marketing and it worked like a charm. And after all these years, modern marketers have put lipstick on the pig and the Fitbit phenomenon has been the result. It’s hard to walk down the street and not see a handful of people checking their wrists.

The Good News; it Doesn’t Matter

Alright now that the myth-busting is over let’s get down to science. Yes, for fitness and better health we do need exercise. 10,000 steps is a worthy goal but not all steps are created equal. As a rule of thumb, it has long been bandied about that you have to burn 3,500 calories to lose one pound of fat.

But some researchers now cast doubts on that fact. Like everything else, there are just too many variables involved. Bottom line, not all steps are created equal.

To make your effort count:

  • Increase your speed when walking; this will increase your heart rate and metabolism.
  • If you are running, do intervals or some form of speedwork once a week.
  • Consider training for a race. This will motivate you and put you in the company of like-minded people.
  • Hit the hills. This will work you harder.
  • Bump up your mileage/time. To ward off hitting a plateau, increase your effort daily.
  • Change your eating habits. Eat quality food, not junk. Small snacks like nuts are good to keep your blood sugar stable.

So, Should You Invest in a Fitbit?

Absolutely! Most people need some sort of device to see where they are in their training. You aren’t limited to any one type of device.  For example, I use a Garmin. It gives me elapsed time, distance, pace, elevation, cumulative mileage on my shoes so I know when to change them, and more. As a bonus it’s nice enough to be worn as an everyday watch. It also downloads my data to the computer.

It is also quite possible to get your phone to do all this but cell phones don’t always get along with sweat and rain so there will be times when that is not a good option. Today there are any number of training and weight loss apps available to motivate you and keep you on track.

So go ahead and start with Fitbit’s mythical 10,000 steps as as baseline. It is as good as any other number. And remember, there is nowhere to go but up.


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Find Your Best Race Distance

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Start of the Houston Half Marathon

As runners, whether as beginners or with years of experience, most of us have our favorite race distances. The basis for that may be fitness level, physical limitations, or just good old personal preference. I have been running since 1975 so I’ve indulged in most of them. Here is what I’ve found out along the highways and byways.

Preparation and Training

No matter what distance you are focusing on or what specific event you are getting ready for it is important to stay healthy. This includes proper nutrition and avoiding overuse injury. In my case this also includes taking meds for high blood pressure. I have learned to deal with the side effects which took a bit of experimenting.

Should you take supplements? Another personal decision. It seems like every month a new “study” proves that they do or don’t help. I take Osteo-bi-Flex for my joints and I think it helps. I also take a multi-vitamin daily to edge my bets.

What constitutes a “healthy lifestyle” can be a bit arbitrary but I have condensed some of my favorite tips (habits) of successful runners. Feel free to take the ones that work for you and dispense with the rest. As for training, it’s good to develop a weekly mileage base. A minimum of 20 miles per week is good for most people. After that, tailor your workouts to the distance your are specifically training for.

Running Track Events

Now This is Having Fun!

Track events can vary from very short sprints to longer distances like the 10K or the steeplechase. I’ll be honest; these are not my favorite races. They just hurt too much and the training is boring. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t mind doing speedwork and intervals one day a week but not for the bulk of my training.

Of course a lot of this has to do with your DNA. Runners who have inherited predominately fast-twitch muscles may find these events fun, but alas, I fall on the other end of the spectrum.

The Ever-Popular 5K Race

There are many reasons why the 5K is so popular. It is well within the reach of beginning runners, it’s easy to stage as a local fund-raiser, and it ties in nicely with holidays like Thanksgiving and Labor Day.

Training for this distance is not overly involved. I would recommend the following per week:  one speedwork workout, one long run of 5 to 6 miles, three runs of 3 miles, and one cross-training workout of personal choice (swimming, cycling, hiking, weights, yoga, ect.)

The race strategy is a short warm-up before the race to loosen up the muscles, going out confidently when the gun goes off, and then ramping up the pace. At a mile and a half in you should be breathing hard but not dying.

The 10K as a Middle-Distance Race

Whereas 5Ks can be considered any-weekend, any-community events, 10K races are a little harder to find. They are harder to stage requiring more police cooperation, more port-o-potties, and usually a stricter time limit so the police can go home and the volunteers can get the cones off the route.

Training for this distance is basically the same routine as the 5K with the distances bumped up. Mid-week runs should be 4-5 miles and the weekend long run should approach 8 miles.

My strategy for this distance is no warm-up, position myself about halfway back in the pack, go out easy at a conversational pace, and begin to ramp it up. Once the pack thins out to allow some maneuvering I do so passing when I can but not wasting energy. The last half mile should have you breathing heavily and of course when you can see the finish line you should be sprinting. You can generally find some other poor soul to lock horns in battle with.

Bumping It Up to the Half Marathon

This is my favorite distance. Finding a half usually requires a road trip of some sort unless you live in or near a larger community. These are usually fall races so you really need to start ramping up your training plan mid-summer or so.

The most important part of training is your weekly long run. Because of the time involved Saturday or Sunday are good choices. You should be doing upwards of 15 miles two weeks out from race day. Carry lots of water! Hide water bottles along your route if you need to. Use Body Glide or an equivalent to avoid chafing.

The week prior to the event you should do some serious tapering. Just a few miles for your midweek runs and of course no long run. As far as race strategy goes I just like to have fun. Go out very easy and settle into a good conversational pace. Beginning at about the halfway point I walk the water stations and mix a cup of water with some Gatorade; the full-strength stuff is just too much. Run the tangents. You would be surprised how cumulative those extra few feet on every corner are.

Run a Full Marathon

How many times have you heard non-runners say a marathon is on their bucket list? My guess is that most of those buckets never get filled! But for runners there is really nothing bucketeseque about a full marathon; it’s just another notch on the old belt.

The training and strategy are basically the same as for the half  but there’s just more mileage involved. I always allow about six months of ramping up my training. Of course, following the 10% rule (no more than 10% weekly mileage total per week; no more than 10% increase in long run distance every other week). The weeks between long  runs should now be 10-12 miles in length.

Ready to Step it  Up to an Ultramarathon?

This is Me at the Sunmart Ultramarathon

I’ve done 5 of these and enjoyed every one of them. The hardest thing for me was the psychological aspect. The distance for me was not the issue, it was the fact that it was a multi-loop course after the initial 10K segment. Every time I went through the check-in station it was, “Oh Lord here we go again.”

The training was almost the same as for the marathon except for the enormous amount of mileage I had to put in. In fact, many times I had to break up my long runs between Saturday and Sunday. That started beginning when my schedule called for over 20 miles. Even starting a couple hours before dawn that South Texas sun would take its toll.

With this volume of weekly distance, allowing adequate time for running recovery became critical. At that time I was also very active with triathlons and quickly found out that long, slow lap swimming was my friend.

So there you have it; these are the things I have learned over the years. Take from it what you will and I hope some of it will help you and contribute to avoiding injury. We are all built differently and that’s why there are so many training concepts, no matter what you find as your best race distance.


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How Blood Pressure Medication Affects Your Running

Middle-of-the-pack marathon runners
Middle-of-the-pack marathon runners
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It’s a popular misconception that being a regular runner can get high blood pressure down into the normal range. Certainly it can help by keeping you at a favorable weight, but most experts agree that exercise alone can only drop the blood pressure 10 or so mm Hg in most people. If you are genetically programmed for high blood pressure, this alone may not be enough to do the trick.

I didn’t realize this. When my doctor told me I had hypertension I said, “But doc, that can’t be; I run almost every day and at least one marathon a year.”

He said, “You have been misinformed, my friend. That kind of exercise can help but it’s not a panacea. If it is in your genes, it’s in your genes. Wer’e going to try medication.

Lisinopril is My Hypertension Drug

Lisinopril tablet, 40 Mg
Lisinopril tablet, 40 Mg

There are many high blood pressure drugs on the market. Many of these are now generic which is a good thing because once you are on them, you are likely on them for the long haul and generic-ness reduces the cost. Since it is generic, you might have also heard the brand names Zestril, Prinivil, and Qbrelis. Same stuff, different Big Pharma company.

Different meds may work differently. This one is classified as an ACE inhibitor. It does its deed by reducing the production of angiotensin II, which relaxes arterial muscles and enlarging arteries. When your blood pressure lowers, your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood.

 The arteries supplying your heart with blood also enlarge while being treated with ACE inhibitors. This increases the flow of blood and oxygen to your heart which further improves the ability of your heart to pump blood.

How Lisinopril Affects My Running

Beginning this treatment was a tough pill to swallow (excuse the pun). One of the side effects is a persistent cough which I’ve gotten used to but during races or on the trails I get some odd looks like, are you contagious with something?

It also makes me lethargic all day which translates to a slower pace. Well, that excuse certainly takes the pressure off, doesn’t it? Also, larger, more flexible arteries make for more more blood flow making for a lower heart rate. This is fine for a run of three miles or less but over that it’s not good — once I stop.

I found out just how bad this could be after doing a 10K in the Texas Bridge Series. It was a hot day and I felt fine while running. But a couple of minutes after the (thank God) finish line I was standing in line for food and something cold to slug down.

I began to feel really woozy. Not sick, not nauseous, just light-headed. My vision began to go in and out. It was just the amount and rate of blood still pumping while my muscles had stopped crying out for all that oxygen-toting flow. I see it as meds being an artificial way to regulate the body they just don’t allow adjustment as quickly as “normal” feedback. But I held my place in line and after sitting on the grass and chowing down for about 15 minutes I was OK again. Lesson learned? I now take my meds after a workout, not before. And immediately following a run I walk for up to a mile instead of just standing still as part of my running recovery routine.

Other Blood Pressure Meds Side Effects

Besides the cough and feeling lethargic, I also get these odd but unimportant fleeting back pain. After even a short run my shoulders feel tired and a bit sore. Some people develop headaches, insomnia, anxiety,  and nasal congestion. I have been spared those but chalk it up to still running, recovering, and stretching. Almost every freakin’ day.

So am I happy with how blood pressure medication affects my running? No, not at all. But as my doctor told me, “Young man, it beats the hell out of having a stroke or a cardiac event.” My BP yesterday was 91/67. Maybe too low.


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Top Training and Weight Loss Apps

Myfitnesspal App Screenshot

How many times have you heard, “There’s an app for that!” It’s true; the market is flooded with them for everything from generating prime numbers to identifying flowers. The problem is that some of them are pure junk that just take up space on your phone. With that in mind, here are the top training and weight loss apps. We’ve done the research for you so you won’t have to.

MyFitnessPal

Perhaps the best thing about the MyFitnessPal app is its vast database of more than one million foods, listing counts of calories, macros, and other nutrients.Whether you are on a diet for weight loss or you are just getting the best bang for your buck to fuel your next grueling workout, this app has your back. It can also guide you in setting the applicable weight loss goals that are based on your current weight, how many pounds you are looking to lose, and your present exercise level.

Waterlogged

Hydration is one thing that we don’t always pay enough attention to. Sometimes we just don’t feel thirsty and that’s fine if you are just going to drive home after work. But if you have an afternoon workout planned instead, this can be a bad thing. Waterlogged lets you set reminders at scheduled times or at random intervals to swig more water and track of how well you are at meeting your daily drinking goals.

Talkspace

Talkspace aims its focus on the mental side of your life. Face it, you might be down because you are not meeting your goals. You may be peeved off because that cruel taskmaster of a boss is ruining your workouts by imposing seemingly random work schedules and slamming you with impromptu overtime. Whatever. You just need to vent. This app gives you access to professional counseling anywhere, 24/7.

My Asics

This app is a wonderful planning tool. It will create a training plan for a specific upcoming event. In doing this it takes into consideration your current fitness level and personal goals. And no, you don’t have to be running in Asics for this to work although it is a clever marketing move.

Happy Scale

As handy as they are, weight scales don’t really give you your “true” weight, because it does not take into consideration the state of your hormonal fluctuations or whether you are carrying more poundage due to constipation or water retention. Happy Scale strives to take these fluctuations out of your weight measurements and that makes makes for a nice, smooth curve if you are graphing it.

BioForce HRV

Have you considered your heart rate variability? This is defined as the fluctuations in the amount of time between each heartbeat. Knowing it is important because this metric is a marker of your body’s current stress levels and exercise recovery status.

Too much fluctuation indicates fatigue, and BioForce HRV uses these numbers to determine just how hard you can effectively work out. “I’ve used this for years,” Men’s Health nutrition advisor Mike Roussell, Ph.D. tells us. “It allows me to know how long and hard I should train that day based on the state of my nervous system.”

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Fooducate

Fooducate is impartial and will tell you things that that nutrition label on the box tries to hide. It boasts a database of more than 250,000 items. It works this way — you scan a food UPC label using your smartphone’s camera and it will rate the product with a letter grade with an explanation for why it is or why it is not healthy. It will also give you a list of healthier options that are related to the product you’re eyeing.

Healthy Out

It’s rough for folks watching what they eat to find healthy options when they’re out on the town. HealthyOut uses GPS to compile a list of eateries in your area, as well as recommended menu items for a healthy meal. It will also pony up some additional tips on how you can make the dish healthier, like leaving croutons off a salad.

Yummly

It takes the guesswork out of deciding what to cook. Just give it your dietary preferences (such as Paleo, low-carb, or Keto), favorite types of food, and your cooking abilities This will generate a list of recipes that will suit your food style preferences and lifestyle choices. It will also provide shopping lists from your favorite recipes. One less thing to fret over.

Give one or more of these training and weight loss apps a spin and see if it doesn’t make your life just a little bit easier.


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10 Habits of Highly-Successful Runners

A healthy runner is a happy runner.
A healthy runner is a happy runner.

Article edited on 07/20/18

By definition, we runners are creatures of habit. We simply don’t feel right if we miss a workout and sometimes push harder on the next one to make amends. This makes it a healthy habit in our eyes and occasionally just a bit on the kooky side in the eyes of our sedentary counterparts.

We are also goal-setters. This is easy for beginning runners when the opportunities are as open and unlimited as the blue west Texas sky. The first 5K, the first 10K and so it goes until we have marked off our bucket list so many pounds lost, that first marathon or ultramarathon.

But what happens after that? Do we crater? Hopefully not. Although I must admit that I don’t see as many of the old crew at the races as I used to. I don’t do as many as I used to anymore either; I just focus on the Texas Bridge Series.




But I do keep running. My goal now is just to keep running until I eventually lay down for that long, long dirt sleep. Now that is a worthy goal. With that in mind, lets look at some the 10 habits of successful runners. As I define success, it’s keepin’ on keepin’ on; with 5 ultras under my belt more distance isn’t the answer it once was. For you it might be still climbing that ladder of goals.

Do Your Strength Training. Many runners neglect the weights and this is a mistake. Building and maintaining lean muscle mass balances us out and reduces the prospect of injury. There is a good reason that those in the know continually stress the importance of maintaining a strong core. Choose exercises that work the upper body, core and lower body. Shoot for 3 times a week. There is really no reason for a gym membership unless you need the swimming pool. Resistance bands are very economical and versatile and will even fit in your suitcase if you spend time on the road.

Chow Down on More Vegetables. You don’t have to adopt Michelle Obama’s school menu, but try to fit more organic veggies into your lunch and dinner meals. The point is that high-quality carbohydrates lend power to your workouts, and their antioxidants help keep the potentially damaging free radicals at bay.  Myself, I’m nuts about salad. Try to select vegetables of different colors since that virtually guarantees that you will get a broad range of nutrients. And don’t forget to add some cheese; calcium and protein are good things.

Make Running Your First Activity of the Day. After your coffee of course. You afternoon runners know the drill; the later it is in the day, the more things arise to threaten your workout. Plus the fact that it gives you altogether too much time to talk yourself out of it. And isn’t it worth the early wake-up call to already be endorphin-saturated when you are faced with the prospect of a boring meeting at the office? Enjoying another cup o’ joe? When you set your alarm before bed, be sure to allow enough time for your warm-up routine. Be sure to set out all your essentials the night before so you can plug ‘n play. That means shorts, shoes, socks, water bottle, etc.

Get in Some Cross-Training. As good as running is for us, it is very stressful on the body. Some swimming, spinning and time on the rowing machine will maintain your level of fitness while at the same time giving your joints a break. With that in mind, a couple of good times to work cross-training into your schedule is on the day before or the day after a hard run. I’ve found that some slow yet long lap swimming is just the thing to elevate my heart rate while also getting a great all-over stretch in.

Dump the Gadgets Once in a While. We have become obsessed with cell phones, GPS, earbuds blocking out the world and God knows what else. It will do your soul good to leave all that junk behind every now and again when you hit the road or trails; get out of your box. Enjoy the sights. Listen to your breathing. Smell stuff. Do something nice and redeeming that doesn’t reek of “me.” I run early in the morning and stop to pick up earthworms that have slithered up onto the sidewalk and lost their bearings. I toss them back into the deep grass before the ants can attack them like so many Lilliputians on Gulliver. Weird? Hell yeah, but you wouldn’t believe my karma bank account. Besides, all this will remind you of why you run in the first place.

Make Your Weekly Long Run a High-Quality One. If you are not already doing a weekly long run now is the time to start. They are not just to be used as part of a marathon program. The physical benefits are many including beneficial enzyme changes in you legs, new capillary growth, and musculoskeletal strengthening. Remember to follow the 10% rule to avoid injury—don’t bump up the distance more than 10% from one week to the next. If Saturday morning is your long run, Friday is a good candidate for a rest day.

Be Your Own Cook. Try to say goodbye to restaurants, fast food places, and greasy spoons, at least for dinner and breakfast. Problem is, you can’t control the ingredients or portions when someone else is doing the culinary duty. Case in point: I tend to have high blood pressure and don’t need all the salt that they seem to administer with a front end loader. Can’t cook? Take a cooking class or just practice, practice, practice.

Warm-up before Your Run and Stretch Afterwards. Many runners neglect these two steps and that’s just wrong. Warming up will loosen the muscles that you need limber in order to hit your stride. You might not feel like you need to stretch afterwards (you are already loose as a goose) but during cooling down your muscles will begin to contract rapidly. Static stretching, not ballistic, can prolong that action and reduce soreness. A foam roller can work wonders. Focus on your calves, hip flexors and hamstrings.

Slather on that Sunscreen. Running for hours and hours is a blessing and a curse as far as the sun is concerned. On the one hand, you don’t have to worry about a vitamin D deficiency. On the other hand, your chances of developing skin cancer go way, way up. As a general population, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer. Ouch. And that estimate also takes those spooky milky-white goth types into account. Try to use a sunscreen that is made for sports, meaning that it will not sweat off as easily.

Finally, Get Plenty of Sleep. Sleep is essential for all of us but it is especially critical for runners because the body undergoes some major repair action when we check into nod-land. In fact people that are taking statin meds to control cholesterol are advised to take it only at bedtime because that is when the blood really gets cleaned up.  Cutting back on sleep can cut the amount of glycogen that your body will store for fuel and may result in weight gain. And besides all those interesting facts, the dreams are just fun, right? If you want to boost the enjoyment level, work on developing your lucid dreaming abilities.

If you need to work on one or more of these 10 habits of highly-successful runners, now is the time. Start working them in one at a time and chart your results. And have fun.

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