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Marathon Musings: Why You Should Run a Race for Charity

Written on August 29, 2014 at 5:48 pm , by

People run marathons for a lot of reasons: to accomplish a new goal, take their running to the next level, prove something to themselves, etc. Some even do it because they like to travel. Yes, it makes sense—all ten of my half-marathons have been in a different state, and I firmly believe exploring a new place by foot is one of the coolest things to do. But the main reason I’m tackling my first marathon is about more than just me: it’s about helping a cause raise funds and awareness.

Sure, it takes extra work, but fundraising for the National Blood Clot Alliance and running as part of Team Stop the Clot has been more satisfying than any other race I’ve trained for. Here’s why:

You relate to the cause. When people find out I have a blood disorder, blank stares usually follow. That, coupled with the fact that nearly a quarter million women are affected by blood clots—and 100,000 people a year die from Deep Vein Thrombosis or Pulmonary Embolism in the U.S. (read more on that here)—makes me passionate about informing the general public in any way I can.

It pushes you to train. When you’ve had a really long week and all you want to do is sleep in and eat bagels on Saturday, knowing an entire team—and organization—are counting on you is enough to get out and run that 15-miler (or whatever distance). Best part? You still get to eat that bagel, and it’s totally guilt-free.

Fundraising is fun. Sure, $2,500 is more money than I’ve ever raised for a single cause, but seeing friends, family and complete strangers come out of the woodwork and contribute to a cause you care about is heart-warming. And throwing a few fundraisers—think a party, 50/50 raffle, and workout at a local fitness studio—is a great excuse to bring together friends that you haven’t seen in a while because you’re busy pounding pavement.

It guarantees entry. This isn’t the most important benefit, but let’s be honest—it’s a definite perk. Opting to fundraise for a charity is a lot of work, but it means I’m definitely able to run one of the most iconic marathons exactly when I want to. Being mentally ready for training is just as important as being physically ready, and this was the year I wanted to be singing “New York, New York” on the Verrazano bridge. Being a part of Team Stop the Clot has allowed that to happen.

You’re a part of a team. Sometimes I miss the good ole’ days of high school and collegiate sports, when I regularly had a team of athletes to lean on when the going got tough. We all had a common goal in mind, which helped boost morale. Now that I’m a part of Team Stop the Clot, I’ve met new people—in real life and on social media—and when I need a reminder about why I’m doing this, I just go to our fundraising page and read all of the inspiring stories from my teammates. And if I get lackadaisical about fundraising, I’m only one quick click away from seeing how the rest of the runners are doing. When their numbers go up, it only fuels the fire to make sure mine do, too.  

For more information on how to become a member of Team Stop the Clot, go to the application page. If you’d like to make a donation, visit my fundraising page.

Photo courtesy of the National Blood Clot Alliance

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Triathlon Training: Beauty Essentials

Written on August 28, 2014 at 10:18 am , by

Being a beauty editor at FITNESS magazine is, in my humble opinion, the best job in the world because I get to combine two of my greatest passions: beauty and fitness. Not surprisingly, these two worlds collide quite often, but it goes to a whole other level when I’m training for a triathlon. I recently spent weeks preparing for and completing the New York City Triathlon and take it from me: training across three different disciplines does wonders for your body, but it can wreak havoc on your hair and skin. As one of the more equipment-heavy sports out there (think: goggles, swim cap, bike, cycling shoes, helmet, sunglasses, running sneakers, etc.), it only seems fitting that triathlon would also require a bundle of beauty products that are essential to prepping for race day. Here are my tried-and-true training must-haves:

Lady Anti Monkey Butt Powder ($6, drugstore.com)
Despite the cheeky name and packaging, this powder protects your bum and thighs from chafing on the bike and during the run by absorbing moisture.

Blistex Medicated Lip Balm SPF 15 ($2, dugstore.com)
My favorite balm is a lip-saver during long training rides, stashes easily in my jersey pocket and offers sun protection, too.

Skyn Iceland Hydro Cool Firming Gels ($30, skyniceland.com)
I’ve been obsessed with these hydrating, soothing pads for years. They’re my secret weapons for fading goggle marks around my eye area after countless laps in the pool.

Supergoop! Everyday Sunscreen with CRT SPF 30 ($19, supergoop.com)
Even when I’m dripping with sweat (which is always), the super lightweight and water-resistant formula of this sunscreen protects my face without stinging my eyes.

Coola Unscented Sunscreen Spray SPF 30 ($32, coolasuncare.com)
The spray-on application is quick and easy before rides and runs and won’t leave behind a greasy residue.

Aquaphor Healing Ointment ($6, drugstore.com)
Use this on your chamois to prevent saddle sores or apply it to the back of your heels to ward off blisters. Since it’s oil-based, you don’t want to use this with your wetsuit because the heavy oils will start to degrade the neoprene. Instead, I use a water-based product like Body Glide for Her ($8, drugstore.com) to prevent chafing.

Swim Spray ($15, swimspray.com)
As mentioned here, this 100% natural, vitamin C spray neutralizes the odor of chlorine on your skin, hair and suit so you don’t have to walk around all day smelling like a walking pool.

Venus Embrace Sensitive Razor ($13, drugstore.com)
A fresh shave is key for both swimming (so you don’t have any embarrassing stubble and your wet suit slides on and off easily) and biking (some think silky smooth skin makes you more aerodynamic which is why even many male cyclists shave their legs). This keeps my skin soft and stubble-free without any irritation.

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Crème Intense Hydration ($27, kiehls.com) and Avène After-Sun Care Lotion ($21, dermstore.com)
Needless to say, pool time and multiple showers dry out your skin. These two moisturizers (Kiehl’s for face; Avène for body) help relieve that tight, dehydrated feeling instantly.

Pantene Pro-V Damage Detox Weekly Rehab Crème ($7, pantene.com)
Even with a swim cap, the chlorine still manages to dry out your hair. This once-a-week treatment saves my strands from feeling like straw.

First Aid Beauty Eye Duty Triple Remedy ($36, sephora.com)
I use this eye treatment to de-puff and brighten my under eye area after early morning training sessions.

More from FITNESS: 

Triathlon Training: 4 Tips for Transitioning into the Sport

Triathlon Training: Meet Zoot Sports Athlete Jennifer Vogel 

Gear Up for Your Triathlon 

Don’t Miss These Ovarian Cancer Symptoms (And Help Raise Awareness with Run for Her)

Written on August 26, 2014 at 9:43 am , by

Written by Mary Kate Schulte, editorial intern

Ovarian cancer: it’s the fifth-leading cause of death by cancer in women, and it’s dangerously easy to miss. We know FITNESS readers are all about their health, and everyday problems like bloating and stomach pain don’t normally cause a red flag. But if these pains are abnormal for you or are increasing, there could be a problem. Beth Y. Karlan, MD, the director of the Women’s Cancer Program at the Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute, urges women to be aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer because they are easily disguised as run-of-the-mill issues (think frequent urination and bloating). Dr. Karlan, along with the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, teamed up with the run/walk fundraising program Run for Her in order to spread awareness and raise money for research.

Run for Her was founded by Kelli Sargent, whose mother Nanci was a patient of Dr. Karlan’s. The event has bloomed into one of the biggest ovarian cancer run/walks in America—there were nearly 6,000 participants in 2013! They began in Los Angeles and are now spread far and wide—even Hong Kong is hosting an event this year. Run for Her will be in New York on September 6th (sign up here), and while preparing for the 5K Run and Friendship Walk, we spoke to Dr. Karlan to get some details on this disease.

Watch For These. Symptoms of ovarian cancer are subtle and easily confused with normal day-to-day discomforts. The symptoms include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency). See your doctor if you have these symptoms more than 12 times during the course of one month or they are new or unusual for you.

Be Proactive. Be aware of your own body and changes that might indicate the need to see your physician. Know your family history; inherited cancer susceptibility is an important part of your personal health care. See your physician regularly.

Prevention. By using birth control pills for longer than one year, women can reduce their risk of ovarian cancer, research shows. In fact, use of birth control pills for six years or greater reduced ovarian cancer by 60 percent. Another method of prevention: removing the fallopian tubes, as recent data demonstrates that this type of cancer appears to begin in the fallopian tube. But obviously, this is an extreme measure, and should not be done if you intend to get pregnant.

How To Help. Spread the facts about ovarian cancer. If it is diagnosed early, doctors can treat and even cure women. Consider attending a Run for Her event or participate in the Research for Her program, an award-winning research registry used to increase representation of women in research.

Dr. Karlan praises the determination of women like Nanci Sargent, saying, “The thousands of people who make up our Run for Her family help push me to do all that I can to move us toward better treatments and even someday a cure.” On her own health regimen, she works out regularly, eats healthfully and stays passionate about her patients and work. Her advice for the runners in New York?  “Relax and enjoy the morning in Hudson River Park.  I will look forward to running alongside all of you!”

Photo by Angela Davis Haley/adhphotography

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Wait, I Can Skip My Pelvic Exam?!

Kara DioGuardi Takes Charge of Her Health—For the Long Run

Private Matters: Solutions to Common Gyno Problems

Triathlon Training: 4 Tips for Transitioning into the Sport

Written on August 21, 2014 at 9:00 am , by

Maybe you swam on your college swim team, you’re a runner looking for a bigger challenge or you’re addicted to spin class and want to take your cycling skills to the next level. Whatever your reason for being interested in triathlon, getting into the sport can be a little tricky and sometimes intimidating. Zoot-sponsored athlete Jennifer Vogel and I put our heads together to come up with the best advice for breaking into the sport.

Study up and train hard. 
One of the most valuable things I did before my first triathlon was research the sport like crazy. I wanted to know everything I could to be as prepared as possible. Once you’re armed with some basic information, like a starter training plan and transitioning tips, you can use your workouts and experience to figure out the rest. There’s a lot of info out there, so take advantage of reputable sources and then put what you know into action during your workouts.

Don’t overestimate yourself in one sport. 
Vogel points out that many tri-newbies are runners first. But just because you can run a sub-2:00 half-marathon doesn’t mean you should skimp on training for those final miles. The same goes for naturally gifted swimmers and bikers. Everyone has their favorite and strongest leg, but you still need to practice pacing yourself through three different sports and mastering the bricks (transitioning from one sport to the next).

Ease into the equipment.
Triathlon is a sport that requires a lot of gear. Gear costs money. But don’t let the initial investment scare you away; instead, start small. Vogel suggests easing in with short sprint races that you can do without expensive items like a wet suit or tri-specific bike. True story: I did my first tri in a sport bikini and borrowed my brother’s old bike! Once you get a better idea of how serious you’ll become and what kind of goals you have, you can invest in better equipment little by little along the way. Not sure of the essentials? Check out our go-to list here.

Join a tri group. 
It’s the easiest way to make new friends with a common interest and you’ll have an instant network of triathletes to train with and ask questions. Vogel notes that a group helps keep you accountable and makes it fun, too. I’ve done all my training and races solo and quite honestly, I wish I joined a group early on. Trust me, during those long training days, you’ll be happy to have the company and fellow finishers give you more reasons to celebrate during your post-race party.

Photo by Kevin Steele

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Hello, Mr. Vice President: Meb Keflezighi is Ready for More Running—With You!

Written on July 23, 2014 at 5:03 pm , by

Written by Macklin Stern, editorial intern

When you’re an athlete, there’s nothing more golden than getting tips directly from the pros before the big day. As an aspiring runner, I’ve always admired Meb Keflezighi, not just for his incredible win at the 2014 Boston Marathon a few months ago (he was the first American to win it since 1983), but for the power, drive and passion he brings with him to every competition. And as a silver medalist of the 2004 Olympic Games (and countless other marathon wins), we’ve got the feeling he probably has some valuable training advice.

So we were pretty stoked when Competitor Group Inc.—a company that sponsors some really awesome sporting events like Run Rock ‘N’ Roll—announced Meb as the new vice president of running (side note: Can I have that title? It’s gotta be an awesome resume booster). Meb will use his passion and advice to help us mere mortal runners by developing training plans for us to follow to a T, popping up on social media with extra tips, and, of course, participating in a bunch of events—he’s already rocked (and rolled) at RNR San Diego, and you’ll find him lacing up for the Strip at Night, too. Basically, you can train like Meb and run with him, too. Umm, amazing!

So whether you’re nervous about competing in your first-ever marathon (like assistant web editor Samantha) or just eager to go out there and eat up the miles, Keflezighi has your back. Stay tuned for details on which races he’ll be at, and don’t forget to check out CGI’s website for updates.

Image courtesy of Competitor Group Inc.

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Marathon Musings: 5 Mistakes First-Timers Make

Written on July 21, 2014 at 9:18 am , by

After three years of regularly running and 10 half-marathons under my belt (along with tons of fit-spo from the FITNESS staff), I’m going after the illustrious 26.2-mile race that every runner dreams about: the New York City Marathon. The best part, for me? Running for Team Stop the Clot, a charity running team branched off the National Blood Clot Alliance. With so many important charities to choose from, it’s hard to pick just one, but as someone who’s been personally affected by blood clots (along with nearly a quarter million other women), it was the best fit. Want to know more about my story? Check it out here.

Now that training has kicked off for me and many others lacing up for a fall race, I’ve teamed up with Clif Bar athlete and coach Stephanie Howe to take me through the ups and downs of doubling my usual distance. And before I get into what I can do right, it was very important to find out what I could do wrong—and make sure not to, ya know, do it. Take warning, friends, as these are the five mistakes tons of first-time marathoners make.

Not fueling while running. While you can get away with it on shorter runs, there’s no skimping when mileage increases. “Hitting the wall” only happens when energy stores start to run out. Your bod needs a quick hit of sugar when racing, so “take in fuel, in the forms of gels or blocks, on any run longer than 90 minutes,” recommends Howe. And be sure to try tons of different varieties to find your perfect fit, as what works for your running bestie may not for you. I love Clif Bar’s Black Cherry Shot Bloks, but avoid all gels like the plague. Everybody’s different.

Taking in fuel too late. Now that you know the 90-minute rule, you want to nail the timing. If 90 minutes pass before you dig in, you’re already too late and won’t avoid the zonk. Instead, eat one gel (about 100 calories) every 20-30 minutes. A quick trick Howe gave me, since I regularly zone out and forget about time? “Set your watch alarm to beep every 20-30 minutes, so you get that regular reminder without having to think about it.” Done and done.

Waiting to eat post-run. Are you sensing a theme here? Clearly, nutrition is a major key to success in marathon training. To nix that “oh-my-god I can’t move my legs” feeling the day after your run (or even the day after that, courtesy of delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS), make sure you eat within 30 minutes of wrapping up the pavement-pounding. “Any fuel consumed in that window will be used immediately to start the recovery process because it goes directly to your muscles, rather than the entire body,” says Howe. If you, like me, hate thinking about food immediately following a run, don’t fret: a buffet of food isn’t necessary. “A Clif or Luna bar, 8 ounces of a Clif Shot recovery drink or chocolate milk are all good options,” suggests Howe.

Running easy runs too fast. This one is key, and a mistake I’ve definitely committed more than once. ‘Cause when you’re feeling good and everything is clicking, it’s tempting to push at a slightly faster pace. Don’t do it, Howe warns. Think of it as a pacing spectrum, with “very slow” on one end, and “very fast” on the other. If you spend a ton of time in the middle, you’ll short-change your progress. “Spending time at each end will improve your fitness, teach you how to adjust to different levels of difficulty, and prevent overtraining,” explains Howe. So when coach says “easy,” she really means it.

Skimping on rest. No rest for the weary, right? Wrong, so wrong. “The goal of training is to place stress on the body that will improve your overall fitness,” explains Howe. “These adaptations happen when the body is resting, so if you skip it, you’re opening yourself up to overtraining, injury and illness.” Obviously I don’t want any of those, so coach has me resting at least one day per week. And when she says rest, that is not code for “go take a  yoga class or walk all over the city with friends.” Instead, it means binge-watch Orange is the New Black or go get a massage, which Howe also highly recommends (the massage, not necessarily OITNB). Girl, you don’t have to tell me twice.

Photo courtesy of Clif Bar 

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Follow Our Marathon Training Plan!

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APL’s New Sneaker Promises to Take Minutes Off Your Mile

Written on June 19, 2014 at 12:31 pm , by

Written by Katie Maguire, fashion assistant

It’s official: Athletic Propulsion Labs has launched the coolest new running shoe. APL is an athletic footwear company founded by the adorable Goldston twins, who know what they’re talking about when it comes to sports: both played basketball and football at the University of Southern California. Shortly after the brand’s initial launch in 2009, it gained widespread attention when the NBA banned all players from wearing APL basketball shoes, which claimed to help basketball players jump higher than normal, thanks to a spring-like device hidden inside the shoe. With press like that, the company quickly designed new ways to revolutionize all athletic shoes.

Their new running line includes 3 collections: The Joyride, The TechloomTM and The Windchill, each of which is designed to reduce stress on your feet in order to maximize your energy while running. We have yet to test the shoes out, but if this company’s past is any indication, I don’t want to wait much longer. To learn more about the company or buy a pair for yourself, check out their website. And be sure to post your results in the comments section below!

Photo courtesy of APL 

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We Tried It: Speed Camp, Part 3

Written on June 11, 2014 at 1:06 pm , by

FITNESS senior editor Bethany Gumper went to Nike Zoom Speed Camp, where she tried the new Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 31 and trained with some of the fastest athletes in the world, then watched them make history at the Prefontaine Classic. Learn a few tricks to take your running to the next level.

***

Get Inspired By The Greats

Meet Mohamed “Mo” Farah

He’s a double gold medalist in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters at the London Olympic Games. Here, Mo’s top tips:

Take care of your body. If you want to get faster, the most important thing you can do is stay injury-free. “I do this by wearing the right shoes and training sensibly,” says Farah. “I also look after my body: take ice baths, get massages, do my weights.”

Have a race day ritual. Sticking to a routine will help you stay calm on the big day. “Most of my races are in the evening,” says Farah. “So I wake up and go for a little jog in the morning. When I come back, I have breakfast and shave my head. In the afternoon, I listen to some music and take a nap.”

Get in the zone. Feeling nervous? “Think back about your training and how hard you’ve worked,” says Farah. “That’s what really gets me going.” 

Now meet Carmelita Jeter

No wonder her nickname is “The Jet.” This Olympic gold medalist and American sprinter who specializes in the 100-meter is the fastest woman in the world. Down-to-earth Jeter is all about the three C’s:

Catnaps: On days when she has an especially rigorous workout, she takes a 30- or 60-minute nap to help her body recover. “Every night, I try to get at least eight to ten hours of sleep,” she says.

Core work: “During the season, I have a special trainer who focuses just on the core muscles,” she says. “It’s not just about lifting tons of weights. It’s about making sure I have a strong foundation.”

Cupcakes: Jeter started working with a nutritionist last year, who has her eating baked fish and chicken and lots of veggies and brown rice. But she doesn’t deprive herself. “People assume that because I’m an athlete, I never eat anything sweet,” says Jeter. “I will tear up some cupcakes. One cupcake is not going to ruin the diet.”

More Workouts We’ve Tried: 

Speed Camp, Part 1

Speed Camp, Part 2

Equinox’s Flow Play

We Tried It: Speed Camp, Part 2

Written on June 10, 2014 at 2:06 pm , by

FITNESS senior editor Bethany Gumper went to Nike Zoom Speed Camp, where she tried the new Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 31 and trained with some of the fastest athletes in the world, then watched them make history at the Prefontaine Classic. Learn a few tricks to take your running to the next level.

***

Your Speed Secret Weapon

Alex Molden, a retired football player who spent eight seasons as a defensive back in the NFL, knows a little something about speed. I met him on the field at the University of Oregon’s Autzen Stadium, where he played for the Ducks. Today he’s a master trainer for Nike—you may recognize him if you’ve played the Nike+ Kinect Training game for Xbox360; he’s the trainer.

One of the most effective ways to increase your speed, says Molden, is resisted running. That’s what I’m doing in the photo above. You run with a belt around your waist with a bungee cord attached to it. Your partner (in my case, an extremely ripped former NFL player) jogs behind you, holding on to the cord to provide steady resistance. We did 10-yard sprints—burn, baby, burn!

Another killer speed builder? Stair running.

Try them both, but keep in mind Molden’s sprint-form secrets:

Arms: Move them back and forward, not across the body. Think of your palms going from cheek (of your face) to cheek (of your bum).

Knees: Keep knees high, bring them up to 90 degrees.

Feet: They should be flexed and driving down.

Check back for Speed Camp, Part 3, tomorrow!

More Workouts We’ve Tried: 

Speed Camp, Part 1

Doonya Fitness Party

NYRR’s Empire State Building Run-Up 

We Tried It: Nike Speed Camp

Written on June 9, 2014 at 4:46 pm , by

FITNESS senior editor Bethany Gumper went to Nike Zoom Speed Camp, where she tried the new Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 31 and trained with some of the fastest athletes in the world, then watched them make history at the Prefontaine Classic. Learn a few tricks to take your running to the next level.

***

Try This Workout! 

When I got the invitation to attend Nike Zoom Speed Camp in Eugene, Oregon, (a.k.a. Tracktown, USA), I was equal parts nervous and excited. Excited because I’ve had a love affair with running since I joined the high-school cross-country team as a tenth grader (how amazing to run on the track at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field, following in the footsteps of Steve Prefontaine and dozens of Olympians). Nervous because I’ve never been particularly, well, speedy. My running style has always been more tortoise than hare.

I was shaking in my Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 31 sneakers when I met my coach: Rory Fraser, one of the best distance runners in the country and the second fastest 5,000-meter runner in the U.K. Gulp. Fraser put me at ease by insisting that speed work is for everyone, not just elite athletes. Then he put me to work on the track doing one of his favorite speed drills, a pyramid workout. You push yourself to run faster over increasingly longer distances, then come back down to where you started. Try our workout—don’t forget to do an easy jog to warm-up and cool-down, as well as some dynamic stretching beforehand. 

And for those who need a reminder, 400 meters is one lap around the track. So here you’ll be doing either a half lap, a full lap, or two laps throughout the workout. Happy sweating!

  • 200 meters fast
  • 200 meters jog
  • 400 meters fast
  • 400 meters jog
  • 800 meters fast
  • 400 meters jog
  • 400 meters fast
  • 200 meters jog
  • 200 meters fast

Check back for Speed Camp, Part 2, tomorrow!

More Workouts We’ve Tried: 

Body Conceptions

JumpLife Gym

DailyBurn’s Inferno HR