Take it outside!

I’m a wimp in the winter, especially if there’s any snow or ice on the ground.  I once ran 15 miles (FIFTEEN! Not an exaggeration!) on the treadmill because I stupidly agreed to a spring marathon without realizing it meant training through an icy, cold winter, and I couldn’t bring myself to slip and slide on the ice.  Needless to say, I am traumatized for life.  Maybe that’s why I take any workouts I can outdoors as soon as humanly possible. Thankfully, I’m not the only one who feels this way which means a plethora of outdoor workouts to choose from. It doesn’t matter if you prefer to go at it alone or if you like a group fitness class – there are options for everyone.

Steps Workouts

While not everyone is as lucky as I am to live by the famed Rocky steps, any steps (think the local high school or college stadium) or inclines provide a great workout.  Combine intervals of running up and down inclines with body weight exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, tricep dips or planks!  Since doing cardio on an incline TORCHES calories and increases your aerobic capacity, even a short workout will do wonders for you.

Cheap Workouts

Summer is a great time to try some new workouts because so many gyms offer free or majorly discounted classes outdoors during the summer months.  One of my favorite local yoga studios, Priya Hot Yoga, offers donation based (at least $5 is suggested) outdoor classes once a month to benefit a local charity.  A local park hosts a hip-hop class (free!) every Tuesday during the spring and summer.  While you might not be a yogi or dancer yet, you can branch out with your workouts without hurting your wallet.

PHY Class
Yoga studios are pretty, but check this view out.

Outdoor Bootcamps

If you are more of a group fitness warrior, preferring a team mentality to solitude, there are plenty of outdoor boot camps to choose from.  Some local gyms will offer summer-long specials for outdoor workouts allowing you to log some workouts without ever setting foot indoors. A few local favorites are Core Fitness and Fit Academy.

If you’re looking for something a little cheaper (aka free) look for a local November Project.  With over 40 chapters worldwide, there might be one close to your town.  Started in 2011 in Boston, the goal was to keep each other accountable to health during the winter months but a little accountability never hurt in the summer either.  After all, how often have you skipped a workout to go to happy hour?  Yeah, me too.

New Ways to Commute

A workout doesn’t have to be a dedicated hour of your day.  Take advantage of the nice weather by creating a more active commute to work or when running errands.  I am about two miles away from my office so I walk when I can.  It saves money (when I don’t stop to buy an iced coffee) and adds another 30+ minutes of activity to my day.  If you live further away, maybe get off the subway a stop early and walk the rest of the way or jump on a bike. If driving is your only option, use your lunch break for a brisk walk.  Since researchers have shown that sitting is just as bad as smoking, any opportunity to get up and move should not be wasted.

The best part about these workouts? You can continue your new habits even when the seasons start to change.  Either keep the workouts outside or incorporate the new moves you picked up at boot camp into your regular gym routine. You’ll have had three months to shake off the cabin fever and will have the warm memories of summer to keep you motivated.

What’s your favorite way to take exercise outdoors? Any good classes I need to check out?

5 Training Tips to Increase Your Speed

When I first began long-distance running, I had two goals for any race: Don’t die and don’t finish last.  After a few (dozen) races, I thought “Maybe it’s time I start to aim higher.” While I know that I am not going to win any races or even be considered a front-of-the-pack runner, I know I can be a better version of myself. I started incorporating tips I found in order to get faster, and it culminated in a big PR at last weekend’s Broad Street Run. They aren’t hard and fast rules, but suggestions that can help you in your running journey. Incorporate one or all and do it your own way – running isn’t the same for everyone.

BSR 2017
Not dead, not last, and actually on my way to a PR! (S/o to the boyfriend for being a much better race photographer than the professionals.)

1. Start lifting weights. – You don’t need to Hans and Franz to get results from strength training. A 2008 study published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine followed a group of runners who did squats in addition to the regular running routine.  Their “time to exhaustion” increased by over 21% as compared to the runners who did not do squats.  Either look online for a training program you can do yourself or check out a group fitness class such as Body Pump. I normally get my strength training from a mix of boot camp workouts and [Solidcore] classes…anything is better than nothing so find out what works for you!

2. Cross train. – According to Active.com, Runners who cross train become better overall athletes. Taking the time to rest your running muscles and develop new ones through swimming, cycling, or yoga increases overall fitness as well as decreases the pounding on joints that can lead to injury. So take a moment to try a new activity and reap the positive benefits.

3. Follow a training plan. – While you can find formal training plans online (Hal Higdon is my favorite), a training plan can be as simple as planning out your workouts week by week.  Planning ahead ensures you hit your recommend mileage as well as keeps you on track to incorporate strength work and cross training so you can run your best race.

4. Run with faster friends. – I have no scientific evidence for this one, but in running like in life, surrounding yourself with people who are better than you will then help you push yourself to be better. I run shorter runs with my boyfriend and I do my best to keep up. Just make sure to be up front with your new running buddies. Most are very understanding of your desire to be faster and will work with you so that everyone can get what they need from the workouts.

5. Move up a corral. – Much like running with faster friends, racing with faster racers could help you improve your time tremendously. Don’t line up with the elites, but moving up to run with people who plan to run at the faster end of your pace will help you start strong and finish stronger.

Will these tips turn you into Usain Bolt? No. But will they help you become a better runner in whatever way that applies to you.  I know I’m never going to be an elite runner, but there is no greater satisfaction than looking at the race clock and realizing you’ve shaved seconds or even minutes off your time.

Did I miss anything? What tips do you have for people who want to become faster runners?