Tag Archives: Running

Run commuting?


I live an annoying 2 miles from the closest metro stop.  And about 5 miles from my office.  A little too far to walk, but close enough to make the 30-50 minute trek via bus and rail seem agonizing.  I mean, many people run that distance regularly!

So the thought occurred to me recently — why not run it?  But how could that be possible — how could you lug your lunch, clothes and all the other crap I accumulate during the day on a jog home?  Has anyone actually ever tried this?

Well, of COURSE someone has, in this day and age when everyone likens themselves as some sort of Lance Armstrong.  In fact, a little googling revealed a whole community of run commuters with lots of advice on planning routes, carrying your things and tidying up at the office.  This was seeming more and more possible.  Instead of delaying my already long-ish commute home by some time at the gym, why wouldn’t I just kill two birds with one stone, and possibly beat the bus home at the same time?

So one Monday morning I decided to give it a try.  I packed my things in my little backpack that has a waist strap and is lightweight.  I brought a sandwich for lunch instead of something that would require a heavy glass container.  I wasn’t ready to run the whole distance, so I took the metro to my nearest stop and planned to run the two miles home from there.

Well had I paid closer attention to the weather, I would have known that a heat wave decided to spike into the upper 90s that day.  And that the route I had planned out was almost 100% in the bright sun.  Having spent most of year so far on the treadmill, I was not acclimated to running in that kind of heat. With a backpack.  Needless to say, I spent a lot of that 2 miles walking!  And it was a while before I wanted to try it again.

This past Monday I noticed that the high was to be a balmy 89 degrees (94 heat index) and decided to give it a go again.  This time, I mapped out a shadier route and kept it up for about one mile, until I hit a busy intersection and had to stop.  And that stop about did me in.  You know that feeling when you stop running in the summer, and you can just feel the heat radiating off your skin now that there is no longer air moving past you?  Ugh.  I ran for probably most of that remaining mile, but had to start mixing more walking in.  Especially up hills!

But even with the walking, I got home earlier than I would have on the bus.  And that is assuming the bus was on time with no delays.  As it cools off, I am sure it would be a faster commute, but then I’ll also have to consider the waning light in the evenings.

Do you have any creative ideas for commuting? Do you bike, walk or run as part of your commute?  How do you tackle problems such as transporting your gear, cleaning up, and extreme weather or darkness?



Winter running

After a nearly 3 week hiatus, I finally resumed my running routine yesterday.  Last time I went for a jog, I was wearing shorts — but the weather has changed drastically in that short amount of time!  As you can see above, my backyard pond has already frozen over.  Highs are in the mid-thirties this week, with windchill down to the teens!  But I was determined to not let that stop me.

I kept reminding myself that I ran all summer in 100-degree heat, and that running in the cold is probably equally uncomfortable — just different — right?  As with any physical activity in any kind of extreme, it takes a little more preparation.  Here is one article with some basic winter running tips.

I wore:
Target running tights — for $25, these were great and kept me just warm enough.  I wish they were lined, flat-seamed and had pockets — but I’m not sure whether a nicer brand is worth the extra price for now.
Patagonia Capilene 3 top — I love these for layering in the winter and they work great for jogging, biking, hiking and other activities in chilly weather.  They keep you very warm without overheating.  Expensive if you pay full price, but I always buy last season’s on sale. I can usually find them for 50%-60% off (if you don’t care which color you get).
-A fleece vest I purchased for $5 at Old Navy.  Can’t really go wrong with that price.
-And of course, gloves and a hat.

So I set out and was immediately taken aback by how quiet everything was.  No lawnmowers, no kids playing in the street, no dogs barking — everything was just so peaceful.  My run went great — the best run I’ve had in a long time.  I think my body really needed that break.  As for the cold, the tights were great at cutting the windchill and I felt sufficiently warm with my outfit.

So now I’m not so intimidated by winter running — but ask me again when snow and ice are covering the ground :).


Swim Bike Run

Well I have finally decided on my next major fitness goal to work toward:  I just signed up for the Iron Girl triathlon in August 2011.  This is an all-women sprint triathlon that is held in several locations around the country; I am registered for the event in Maryland.

I know never say never, but I really have no interest in training for a marathon or other long distance races.  I scarcely have the patience to do any one thing for 4+ hours, so why would I want to put myself through the torture of RUNNING for that long? 🙂  But breaking a long race into three separate sections is something my short attention span can handle.  I think.

I still have numerous questions bouncing around in my head.  For one, I am most comfortable with the swim portion (though am inexperienced with open water swimming).  So that begs the question, do I concentrate on the swim in order to get a better time, since it is my strongest suit, or do I spend less time on it since I will need more training in the other events?  My cheapness about paying the pool admission fee also comes into play here…

The bike portion is what worries me the most.  It is a hilly course and my bike is this big, honking hybrid that is NOT good on hills!  I purchased it only a few years ago for commuting on poorly maintained trails.  It made sense for me then.  But now I wish I’d had the foresight to choose a bike more appropriate for racing.  But again, I am cheap, and I hate to splurge on a fancy new road bike when I can’t be sure this is a hobby I’ll continue for years to come.  How much of a difference does the type of bike really make?  I hear mixed opinions on this.  For now I think I will stick with my hybrid, be sure to include a lot of hills in my training, and see how things go.

In general I tend to be a minimalist when it comes to accumulating fitness gear — or at least I try to be — my growing collection of activewear would speak otherwise!  I do use my phone to track my mileage through the GPS, and I also think it is crucial to have a properly fitting pair of shoes.  So far, however, I’ve avoided the temptation of expensive GPS trackers, heart rate monitors, $100 compression tights, etc.  But it seems that signing up for this triathlon might test that.  There is an absolutely overwhelming array of clothing, equipment and accessories specific to triathlons and it’s hard to know what is essential and what I can do without.

Oh my.  Good thing I have nine months to get ready for this.  Unless I decide to add additional races into my schedule — there are just so many out there around here and they all sound so fun!  If there are any seasoned triathletes out there reading this, I’d love to hear your advice!


First 5K!

This past Saturday I ran in my first 5k race!  An exciting culmination to my summer-long journey toward becoming a runner.

Even when I was swimming competitively 4-5 days per week back in high school, running was a struggle for me.  But in May I decided it was time for a new challenge, and I started the Couch to 5K program.  It started out with easy run-walk intervals, gradually increasing the running portions until you are able to run for 30 minutes straight.

I chose the 5k associated with the Baltimore Running Festival as my first race, admittedly mostly because of the Under Armour premium, but also because it seemed like just a fun celebration.   The route began and ended near Camden Yards, with an inspiring finish through the stadium down Eutaw street.  It was very crowded — almost 3,000 runners — but the energy was high and I had an awesome time!

I am still very much a beginner — I hesitate to even call myself a runner.
My goals for my first race were to run the entire thing and finish in under 40 minutes.  I met each goal, with 6 minutes to spare!

Now I just need to decide what is next — I have my sights on a triathlon some day, since I’m more comfortable swimming and biking anyway — but now that the weather is getting colder and the days are getting shorter, I need to figure out a plan to keep me motivated to run.  Have any of you had any success with a particular 10k (or more) training program for beginners?  All suggestions are welcome!


Trail running

Pausing for a moment on my run yesterday to take in the scenery

Bored with my usual route, I decided to head to a nearby park to give trail running a try.  While a few miles of paved pathways circle the perimeter of the park, I decided I’d keep things exciting by venturing onto  the unpaved portions that wind through the woods.

And I must say, adding some  fallen logs,  limbs, low branches, and steep valleys and gullies to  my usual routine was a CHALLENGE!  No wonder I kept pausing to admire the scenery and snap some photos with my cell phone!

Baby deer in the forest

Mountain laurel


Running through beautiful scenery was a nice distraction that added an additional meditative component for me, but I am not the only person who has noticed the increased benefits of bringing your exercise routine outdoors.  Some research has shown that outdoor activity — whether it is walking and jogging, cycling, gardening, whatever — can provide significant mental and physical health benefits beyond what one might derive from working out indoors exclusively.

This article indicates that being near a body of water is especially beneficial.  One would think that in my county, which boasts over four hundred miles of coastline, it would be easy to find a body of water, but the fact is the vast majority of this pristine green space has been developed into subdivisions of McMansions and is privately owned.  Though the river I ran along yesterday is literally across the street from me, I had to drive 20 minutes away to gain public access to it.  Four hundred miles of coastline, and only a fraction of it open to the public.

Perhaps the waterfront is prime real estate, but my county is also lacking in public spaces in upland areas as well.  Very few bike trails and areas designated for hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities exist.

Open access to public green space is such an important component of building healthy communities.  It’s not only good for your health to exercise outside, but encouraging bike commuting alleviates traffic, and providing open spaces for citizens to recreate together develops a greater sense of community and connection.  Perhaps building a park is not as lucrative as selling the land to a million-dollar home developer, but it is a long-term investment in the success of the city as a whole.

Right now where I live is not terribly friendly to those of us who like to bike, run and play outdoors.  But maybe some day, if we continue to pressure those in charge, there will be bike lanes and public beaches for all :).

Beautiful day for a run!

It was just over 60 degrees when I stepped outside this morning…perfect day to go for a jog!

I am new to this whole running thing.  I grew up swimming and just never really engaged those muscles.  Running one block was difficult for me.  At the gym, I stuck with the elliptical machine.  But this summer, I decided it was time for a new challenge.  I was going to learn to run.

I used the Couch to 5k program.  It is a nine-week training program that mixes in intervals of walking and jogging, and is designed to gradually build you up to 30 minutes of continuous running.  I completed it in July and I must say it feels great to accomplish something that I always had thought impossible for me.

For me, running is challenging, but what keeps me motivated is the feeling I get when I’m done. I feel energized, motivated, and like I accomplished something that day.  I also love the feeling of being outdoors in the early mornings, listening to the birds and connecting with the world around me.  It is a very peaceful and meditative time.

This morning was my first run after some time off nursing  IT band stress.  I have started a more rigorous strength conditioning program, which is important to ensure you are maintaining proper form and avoiding injury.

As a swimmer, injury was kind of a foreign concept to me.  Yes, it can be hard on your shoulders, but over my 13 years of swimming competitively, I knew very few people who were sidelined for long periods of time.  I suppose I took that for granted and pushed harder than I should have.  When running as a beginner, it is extremely important that you gradually and patiently add mileage and speed, as I have learned!

In October, I will be running my first 5k race, and I’ll be sure to update on my progress toward that goal.  Until then, I’m hoping for an injury-free seven weeks!