Running Improves Memory, Grows Brain Cells

Aerobic Exercise Produces the Cathepsin B Protein


by Kelly R. Smith

Running and brain functionality
Running and brain functionality
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Runners might not all consider themselves to be superior to sedentary people but in all fairness, in our heart of hearts we might suspect it. As it turns out, running and other aerobic exercise does elevate us above the masses, at least with respect to health and mental functionality, all other things being equal. Let’s see how that works exactly.

Scientists now believe that running may help boost memory. This is because the aerobic activity produces a protein which boosts brain cell growth. Researchers at the National Institute on Ageing discovered that when our muscles are exercised they produce a protein called cathepsin B. This makes its way to the brain and triggers neuron growth.

Dr. Henriette van Praag, a neuroscientist at the National Institute on Aging says “Overall, the message is that a consistently healthy lifestyle pays off.” The key word to focus on here is consistently. It should come as no surprise that one of the fundamental aspects of this healthy lifestyle is what we eat and drink. It is therefore important to follow a diet for body and brain.

Initial Findings on the Cathepsin B Protein

Praag explains the research this way, “We did a screen for proteins that could be secreted by muscle tissue and transported to the brain, and among the most interesting candidates was cathepsin B. Moreover, in humans who exercise consistently for four months, better performance on complex recall tasks, such as drawing from memory, is correlated with increased cathepsin B levels.”

Of Mice and Men

Praag’s team initially found that the protein increased when they were studying mice that exercised regularly on wheels. The protein level increased in the blood and muscle tissue the more the mice ran. They next found that when cathepsin B was applied to brain cells in their lab it initiated the production of molecules related to neurogenesis, meaning the growth of neurons.

Additionally, they found that the mice that were genetically modified so that they no longer produced the protein performed less well in memory tests. Dr. van Praag concluded, “We also have evidence from our study that cathepsin B is upregulated in blood by exercise for three species—mice, Rhesus monkeys, and humans.”

How can we as runners reap these benefits? Dr van Praag says, “People often ask us, how long do you have to exercise, how many hours? The study supports that the more substantial changes occur with the maintenance of a long-term exercise regimen.”

Exercising on a Regular Basis Helps Reduces Memory Loss

A Number of health experts have believed in the benefits of running or involved in some other fitness regimen for a quite some time now. Elisa Zied, a member of the American Dietetic Association says, “It’s a no brainer, we know that exercise is something everyone should try to incorporate.”

Another study was undertaken at Columbia University Medical Center that also suggested that exercise may elevate a person’s memory capacity. Researchers in that study were the first to track brain cells in a living brain in an attempt to find the exact area that is the most affected by exercise. What they found is that exercise targets the very region that is associated with the unfortunate age-related memory decline that usually starts around the age of 30.

Participants in this study who were consistently physically active performed better on memory tests than were the participants who neglected exercise. Many health and nutrition experts propose that it’s just one more reason to get active. Zied said, “We’ve known for a long time you get this burst of energy and feel-good chemicals when you exercise, so its not that much of a stretch that it is actually going to preserve your mental function as you get older.”

Increased Blood Flow is an Essential Part of the Process

Webmd.com says, “Researchers found that exercise boosts blood flow to a brain area involved in memory—even in people who aren’t in top shape.” This study shows that just three months of physical exercise was all that was needed for people starting with low levels of aerobic fitness to build up the blood flow to that specific part of their brains and increase scores on memory tests.

In yet another study performed at the University of British Columbia researchers found that consistent aerobic exercise seems to increase the size of the hippocampus. This is the region of the brain that is involved in verbal memory as well as learning.

Running Improves Memory Both Directly and Indirectly

From a direct point of view, some of the primary benefits of running come from its capacity to lower insulin resistance, lower inflammation, and stimulate the production and release of growth factors. These chemicals in the brain are at least in part responsible for the healthy maintenance and operation of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels internally in the brain as well as regulating the number of, and survival of, new brain cells.

But from an indirect point of view, a regular fitness routine has been shown to improve your mood and regenerative, restful sleep as well as reducing your levels of stress and anxiety. Problems in these areas often cause or contribute to cognitive impairment.

A number of other studies suggest that the regions of the brain that are responsible for controlling thinking and memory (specifically the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex) have a larger volume in individuals that are runners as opposed to those who are not.

In a nutshell, if you are a runner, you are doing a lot more for yourself than just keeping the weight off. If you are not a runner, why not start? We can all use an improved memory, and more brain cells as we age.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

A Fundamental Guide to Long Runs

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Long run on an asphalt highway
Long run on an asphalt highway

Many runners, especially newbies, are of the mindset that running long is a workout done solely for preparing for a half marathon, full marathon, or an ultramarathon. In actuality, there’s quite a bit more to the story. They are an important part of a properly balanced training program for runners of all stripes. It is just one aspect of the 10 habits of highly-successful runners. By the way, the same logic applies to walkers as well.

Weekly long distance runs also supply key benefits for athletes that are preparing for a 5K, 10K, or any distance. It also keeps the body from plateauing for individuals intent on burning calories for a weight loss program.

In short, longer distance, slower workouts are just one more factor in a comprehensive workout program. Your easy and recovery runs should make up the bulk of your program in order to avoid injury.

Round out your weekly routine by adding in some interval workouts, fartlek, tempo runs, and sporadic pick-ups to activate your fast-twitch muscle fibers for developing speed. Adding in some hill training will boost leg strength and teaches your legs to handle lactic acid build-up.

Whatever type of workout you have planned for the day it’s important to stick to your workout warm-up routine. It might not seem necessary for a slow long run but in fact it is. And after all, there is something to be said for conforming to habit to keep you honest. The importance of rituals in our everyday lives keeps us balanced.

Long Distance Running Stimulates Physiological Adaptations

Running Times (sadly, a now-defunct magazine) coach and columnist Greg McMillan rightly pointed out that there are 3 distinct physiological adaptations that distance training provides us with.

  • New capillary growth. What are capillaries? These are the smallest of blood vessels; the more you have, the more oxygen-delivery your body is efficiently capable of. The end result is that they enhance your ability to do work. Capillaries are also key during the process of dissipating heat as they direct more blood close to your skin.
  • Musculoskeletal strengthening. As Arnold the Terminator would say, “I’ll pump you up!” Similar to the way lifting weights strengthens particular target muscles, when you add stress to your legs it promotes ligament, tendon, and muscle strengthening. To maintain and build bone density be sure to get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet. As far as supplements go, CoQ10 is highly encouraged for the many benefits for runners, especially us, ahem, older ones. See the graphic below.
  • Enzyme changes. Running long distance encourages an increase in the amount of enzymes in the legs.
The many benefits of CoQ10
The many benefits of CoQ10

Increase Your Running Distance Slowly but Surely

The majority of wise runners do their weekly long runs when they can allocate the time for both the run and the requisite recovery; usually this means the weekend. I’m comfortable with my long run on Saturday and my recovery run on Sunday. Just look at a marathon training schedule and you will see that two things stick out. First, run distance increases adhering to the traditional 10 percent rule.

Secondly, the 10 percent build-up happens every other week in most plans; a good distance on the alternate week is generally about 10 miles for a good maintenance-distance run if you are training for a marathon. It goes without saying is that this rule becomes even more important as one gravitates to longer and more intense endurance events. The second caveat of the 10 percent rule is to limit your total weekly mileage increase to 10 percent.

Make the Long Run a Social Event

There are good reasons for making your long run a social event. And, not because “misery loves company.” Rather because accomplishment loves company. This is one of the best benefits of running clubs. It is certainly much easier to roll out of bed in the sleepy pre-dawn hours when you know your comrades are waiting for you to start laying down the miles. In fact, distance training and comradeship is the foundation of many long-lasting friendships.

As an example, organizations like USA Fit have made a cottage industry of it, and some would say, have taken the concept too far (strongly encouraged to buy merch, etc.) They’re everywhere; in Texas alone there are at least 20 clubs.

These kinds of organizations seem to be largely responsible for the growing phenomenon of marathon walkers (sometimes called turtles). Not that there is anything wrong with that as long as the race organizers let walkers start at least a couple of hours before the gun for the runners goes off.

Hopefully, this guide to long runs has encouraged you to to insert them into your training regimen. Your heart will thank you, your bathroom scale will thank you, and of course it goes a long way towards managing insomnia.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Garmin Forerunner 235 GPS Running Watch Review

by Kelly R. Smith

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Garmin Forerunner 235 GPS Sports Watch
Garmin Forerunner 235 GPS Sports Watch

This article was updated on 10/27/20.

A high-quality running or sports watch is just as important than the health supplements I take. The Garmin Forerunner 235 is the third Garmin I’ve worn over the years and miles. My first one was the 310 XT. Nice watch but it was the early days of GPS and the thing was huge and orange. Not something to wear to work as your default timepiece.

My next one was the 220 which was an improvement in size, aesthetics, and functionality. When it bit the dust after years of loyal service I decided to up my game and buy a 235. It was a smart move.

Garmin Forerunner 235 Features

As I said, the 235 was definitely a step up for my running needs. Here are features that stand out for me.

  • Very fast GPS acquisition. Whereas my 220 would average a minute to be GPS ready, the 235 typically takes 5 – 10 seconds. One less frustration in life, eh? Of course, these numbers will vary by location but the ratio should be about the same.
  • Tracks distance, pace, time, and heart rate. The heart rate is picked up from the underside of the watch. No more bulky chest straps!
  • Activity tracking records daily steps, distance, calories, and sleep patterns.
  • When you are out of GPS sight you can still get your metrics. The built-in accelerometer records distance and pace data when you are running on an indoor track or treadmill. I can’t vouch for its accuracy but it feels to be at least within the realm of legit for my purposes.
  • The ability to customize your data fields, and download watch faces, widgets, and applications.
  • For those who spend all day at their desk, the watch has a red “move bar” on the left side of the face that will appear when you haven’t moved recently (see the image at the top of the page). A trip to the coffee bar and a short leg-stretching stroll will make the bar go away. This is a nice touch for those on a weight loss program; all those steps add up. And face it; too much butt-time is bad for your blood circulation among other things.

Computer Syncing and the Garmin Connect Website

Garmin Connect Partial Screenshot
Garmin Connect Partial Screenshot

The watch uses USB to your computer to sych data, download software updates and third-party apps, and charge the watch, which is fast enough to avoid frustration. After synching with Garmin Express (an app on your computer), one click will bring up the Garmin Connect site. The image above is a partial screenshot of the main landing page. The various blocks give an overview of the various data modules and the menu bar on the left allows drilling for down for details at a smaller degree of granularity.

There is no financial charge for displaying and storing your data; it comes with the purchace. The many charts and graphs are very detailed whether it’s sleep patterns, weight (which you enter manually), cumulative mileage on your shoes, and much, much more. Drilling down from the calendar will show workout details along with a detailed map of your course with street names, which is handy for repeating courses or planning a new one.

Third Party Apps

Garmin wisely has engineered their products to integrate easily with third-party applications. You might be surprised at the vast number available. This is a smart business model because the consumer can buy a basic watch which can be personalized to a degree that frankly, exceeds my expectations.

In my case, I added an app that is designed for walking/hiking. I walk my rescue dog, a Black Mouth Cur, 3-5 miles per day. Another one I installed is the 5 Bretlinge Models Classic watch face. It gives the look of a classic analog watch (suitable for work and dinner parties, ahem). I’m just old-school; I like the hands. But under the hood, it offers many other add-on fields. I added cumulative steps and heart rate so I don’t have to keep pressing that button every time I get curious.

All in all I give the Garmin Forerunner 235 GPS watch 4 out of 5 stars. It fits my purposes with possibilities left over. On occasion (twice in 2 years) the time has just gone off and shown something goofy. Going outdoors and syncing to GPS solved that but I can foresee situations where that would be an inconvenience.


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

The Trails at Countryside Park, League City, Texas

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Countryside Sports Park, League City, Texas
Countryside Sports Park, League City, Texas

I recently wrote about the Seabrook Hike and Bike Trail. Today I’ll tell you about the Countryside Park here in League City, Texas. Both trails are excellent for hiking, biking, walking , and running. One of the best things about both trail systems is that they are long enough to get some good mileage in.

There are a couple of other things to recommend Countryside. First, the trail is never crowded. Secondly, most of the trail is well-shaded, a real benefit now that we are experiencing the scorching days of summer.

The trail itself is concrete so it’s not as forgiving on the knees as the crushed granite trail in Seabrook, but the shade and scenery more than makes up for that. There plenty of wooded streams which makes for a pleasant view.

How to Get to Countryside Park

Getting there is easy. From I-45, turn west on FM 518 (which is Main Street in League City). Drive about 5 minutes and turn right on Bay Area Blvd. Approximately 1 mile down the road the entrance will be on your right.

Water flowing by the trail.
Water flowing by the trail.
Wildflowers are abundant.
Wildflowers are abundant.

Look for the Wildlife

A turtle catching some morning sun.
A turtle catching some morning sun.
Sub-tropical creek in the woods
Sub-tropical creek in the woods
The trail goes under the highway.
The trail goes under the highway.
A wooden bridge, about 1 mile into the hike.
A wooden bridge, about 1 mile into the hike from the parking lot.
Want to go off trail? There are many rustic side-trails.
Want to go off trail? There are many rustic side-trails.
Clear Creek flows past Countryside Park
Clear Creek flows past Countryside Park (It’s not so clear, is it? What a misnomer.)
The park benches may seem a bit eclectic.
The park benches may seem a bit eclectic.
Park trails amble off into the distance.
Park trails amble off into the distance.
Countryside Park basketball courts
Countryside Park basketball courts
A wooded ravine
A wooded ravine.
Recommended field attire for adventure.
Recommended field attire for adventure. Excuse the perma-stubble; I’m being trendy, OK?
No idea what these wildflowers are.
No idea what these wildflowers are. But I like them.

So there you have it. This (Countryside Sports Park) is another very un-utilized park in our area. That’s a good thing because we can enjoy it without undue crowding. Take time to unwind and enjoy.


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About the author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.


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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Should Runners and Others Supplement with CoQ10?

by Kelly R. Smith

Health Benefits of CoQ10
Health Benefits of CoQ10
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This article was updated on 11/01/20.

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,” CoQ10 supplements are key. 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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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

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.

Tan-Through Shirts and Bathing Suits for Men and W

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Running in the Cold Weather

by Kelly R. Smith

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Running in the Winter Snow
Running in the Winter Snow

This article was updated on 11/22/20.

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. Maybe it’s the fall color as the leaves give up the ghost. Whatever, as long as it cools off I’m a happy camper.

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 my a water bottle run out so fast is a relief. I really like this collapsible handheld running water bottle.

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. Don’t let this be you!

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. The sleeves can go up; the sleeves can go down. Your choice. 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 of course continue your yoga or stretching, just do it inside, preferably before and after your jaunt.

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. It goes without saying that if you are training for a particular event, you want to match the environment as closely as possible. That includes the prevailing wind.



Other Just-In-Case Preparations

Running in warmer weather is the ideal minimalist workout; the simplicity is part of the beauty. Winter can be a different story. Consider taking along some cash money in case you, for some reason, have to take a break close to a convenience store. A cup of strong coffee or hot chocolate might be in order. A few packs of GU energy gels or another brand will come in handy, especially on weekly long runs. You’ll need a running gear belt for all this.



Running in the cold weather does require a shift in technique but it does not 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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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

10 Habits of Highly-Successful Runners

by Kelly R. Smith

A healthy runner is a happy runner.
A healthy runner is a happy runner.
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Article edited on 10/28/18

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, as long as the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t claim me. 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 weight training 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 avoid nutrient deficiency. And don’t forget to add some cheese; calcium and protein are good things. That being said, don’t skimp on high-quality protein; it boosts metabolism and repairs muscle.

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. You might want to take your music with you; it can be lonely out there.

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. Controlling quality an portions is especially important if you are on an intermittent fasting regimen.

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 milky-white goth folks into account. Try to use a sports sunscreen; 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 medications 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.

Hopefully, this article provided a bit of inspiration. 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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Visit Kelly’s profile on Pinterest.

About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Running Recovery for any Distance

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This article was updated on 03/05/20.

Upper thigh muscle pain from running.
Upper thigh muscle pain from running.

Experienced runners have learned how to listen to their bodies and know all too well how to tread the thin line between injury and the optimal health that leads to peak performance. They understand and implement running recovery methods for any distance.

The Physiological Reasons for Recovery

First the good news—running causes your body to produce endorphins. These are the chemicals responsible for the so-called “runner’s high.” There’s no need for recovery there.

Not surprisingly, of all the elements of your physical makeup your muscles sustain the most damage during a run. The longer the run is, how challenging the route is and your present level of conditioning are the main factors that determine the amount of damage.

The larger muscle groups such as the buttocks and the thighs shoulder most of the load and consequently sustain the most damage. Generally the damage is temporary and nothing to worry about. This is often referred  to as DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). This is usually experienced after adding mileage to your weekly long run or tackling a marathon.

Running Recovery Guidelines for Different Distances

As you might imagine, the longer the distance is, the more involved and important recovery techniques become. Here are some to consider:

  • Typical training runs. Most of your mileage is of the familiar day-in, day-out variety. These workouts may not cause any soreness but it is important to follow these 7 basic running recovery tips. Cooling down properly, stretching and re-hydrating will go far in ensuring that you can lace up tomorrow injury-free!

  • 5K, 10K and half-marathon races. Any of these will impose more stress on your body than a training run. You still need to follow the basic tips but you might find it beneficial to take a very slow cool-down run after re-hydrating. Also, do some light stretching before climbing in the car for the ride home.

  • Full-marathon and ultramarathon recovery. Now you are entering into a more complex recovery situation; your muscles are almost certainly experiencing some micro-tearing and need some serious TLC. This calls for a multi-day recovery. Of course you will be building from all the recovery actions listed for shorter distances but you should add more rest to begin with.

Be generous with the ice packs for the next week or so, whenever you note soreness or a twinge of pain. Feel free to be a lazy bum (no activity) the first day following the event but eat copiously and nutritionally. Begin light stretching on the second day. Beginning on the third day short, easy recovery runs are in order but only if you feel like it.

As soon as you feel up to it, get back to your normal base. To insure staying injury-free, don’t neglect to incorporate your warm-up routine prior to every run. It may be tempting to skip but it is one of the best investments you can make.


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Visit Kelly’s profile on Pinterest.


About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.