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Archive for May 2011

7.5 Mile Run from Fort Mason to the Golden Gate Bridge

This week kicks off the real countdown to The Giant Race Half Marathon on August 27, 2011.  In 87 days hopefully some of you will be joining me on this 13.1 mile run.  Haven’t started training yet?  Now’s the time to start. Didn’t sign up for the race yet?  Well, you’re kind of SOL – check out how to still run this sold out race here.

I ran this route last Friday when it was actually sunny out.  It’s mostly flat with a steady climb just before the 3 mile mark that leads you to the footpath entrance to the Golden Gate Bridge.  The run, as given, is about 7.5 miles.  If you’re not quite up for that, feel free to cut the run short by starting at a different point along the route.  If you want to go even further, try running on the bridge (though now you will have to share the path with both pedestrians and bicyclists.  You’ve been warned).  On blustery days you might find yourself running straight into a headwind.  Think of this as extra resistance.  This area in general is great to run in the evening hours as the sun is setting to the west.  However, be aware that there are very few street lamps along the road once you enter the Presidio (at the beginning of Crissy Field), so running in this area in the dark is inadvisable.

7.5 Mile Run to the GGB

1. Starting line is around the entrance to Ft. Mason at Bay and Franklin Streets.  Street parking can be found here – or enter Ft. Mason, make a left at the first stop sign, and follow the road to the left into a parking lot where there are spots are designated 2 hour public parking.

2. Head west along Bay and turn right at Laguna.  Laguna will dead-end at a parking lot – stay on the foot path to your left and follow the road as it becomes Marina Blvd.

3. Stay on Marina Blvd (there will be a row of homes on your left and a grassy area then a harbor on your right).  Once you hit Baker Street (look for the Palace of Fine Arts to your left), continue straight into the Presidio and stay on the foot path that borders Crissy Field (this is called Mason Street).

4. Follow Mason Street until it merges with a dirt path that parallels the water.  Follow the dirt path – the water will be on your right and a grassy area with BBQ pits on your left.

5. The first building on your left is The Warming Hut.  Run past this and make a left right after the building.  Cross the road – a parking lot entrance will be on your left.  Look up ahead for Long Ave.  It will be marked as “bike route.” Make a left onto this street and your uphill portion of the run commences.

6.  Follow the bike route – though be careful.  Long Ave has a few blind curves with both cars and bicyclists trying to control the road.  Take your ear buds out so you can be more aware of what is around you.  At the top of the road make a right onto Lincoln Blvd.  Hug the bike trail and continue to follow it and the signs pointing you to the Golden Gate Bridge.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge

7. Head back down the bike path and then back down Long Ave.  Once you’re back at Crissy Field, make a left and follow Marine Drive to Fort Point.  Once you hit the Fort, turn around and continue back on the same path from which you came.  Follow Mason Street back to Marina Blvd, turn right at Laguna, and left at Bay.

7.5 miles never felt so good, right?  If you feel like you need a cool down, there is a Starbucks on Buchanan between North Point and Beach for that much deserved post-run pick me up.

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Tom Woodward is both a finance guru and a personal trainer.  He is committed to his own fitness and nutrition regimes and is constantly finding new ways to push himself to that next level.  He dedicates himself to continually learning about fitness and overall healthy living, and he is always willing to share his knowledge and techniques with others.  He is particularly good at being able to sift through the immense amount of information out there about the health and fitness industry and recognizing what really works and what is false advertising.  Tom currently offers his services as a personal trainer and a nutrition counselor.  I asked Tom to weigh in on the topic of strength training while focusing on a long distance running goal.  His post below provides great insight into how strength training can both complement and bolster one’s fitness goals.  Want to learn more about Tom or have a question for him?  He can be reached via his own blog Health Unchained, by email at tbwoodward@gmail.com, or on Twitter @TomWoodward.  If you like what you read here, check out Tom’s blog for more information about his training services.

Tom Woodward

Strength Training For Endurance Runners

Whether you’re a competitive endurance athlete or simply looking to train recreationally for a 5K run, there are some important factors besides running that should be considered in order to maximize your performance and long-term health. To this point, I’ve completed 4 trail 10k’s, a sprint triathlon, and the escape from the rock triathlon. Though my endurance experience is limited and nowhere near distinguished, I was able to gain a basic grasp of how to improve at running. Above all, endurance running is about training often enough to improve your cardiovascular system and stride efficiency while at the same time avoiding injury. Anyone who can do these three things consistently while following a smart training program will see their race times decrease. In order to build a strong cardiorespiratory system and an efficient stride while staying injury free, it’s very important to consider training methods other than simply lacing up the sneakers and pounding the pavement every day.

Running can be brutal on bones and connective tissue. A majority of distance runners experience foot problems, shin splints, knee tendonitis, and even back problems over the course of their running careers. Joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscle tissue take a pounding and wear down when exposed to repetitive shock absorbing forces like foot strikes in running. Many people tend to focus too narrowly on the health of the heart and forget about the fact that our skeleton, muscles, nerves, tendons, and ligaments are the foundational structures of our body. The health of these tissues is just as important as a healthy heart if you wish to stay active over the long haul. And just like building a healthy heart, you must train these tissues the right way in order to keep them healthy. While distance running can be a phenomenal way to train the cardiorespiratory system, on its own it is a very poor stimulus for muscle and connective tissue growth. Distance running does not put enough stress on the musculoskeletal system to allow it to adapt and grow stronger. In order to get these tissues conditioned and strong enough to avoid running injuries, you need to expose them to at least a minimal level of stress that will cause them to adapt.

Strength Training Basics

Unlike endurance running, strength training increases muscle mass, bone density, connective tissue thickness, nutrient metabolism, and hormonal expression and regulation. These are all very important factors to consider, especially as we start to age. As early as age 30, our tissues start to weaken and decrease in quantity and quality, which can result in sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass) and osteopenia (loss of bone mass) if left unchecked. These conditions are particularly prevalent among women since they carry less muscle mass than men to begin with and they tend to avoid strength training. Over time, sarcopenia and osteopenia can lead to chronic or acute joint injury, which can be debilitating and cause even more muscle and bone loss from inactivity. The best way to combat or reverse this degradation of tissue is through strength training.

Since this is a blog for women, I’d like to address the notion that lifting weights will make ladies large and bulky. This is completely false. The main hormone for building muscle mass is testosterone, and women have much lower circulating levels than men do. Add to that the fact that gaining muscle is largely a factor of how much food you eat. Body builders trying to gain muscle need to eat upwards of 6,000 calories a day to put on mass. So in order for a woman to become ‘big and bulky’, she would need to eat more food each day than most men as well as doing a cycle of anabolic steroids to increase their testosterone. If you’re still not convinced, here is a great article by a girl who lost a lot of body fat and increased her fitness levels tremendously by cleaning up her diet, cutting out cardio and starting to lift weights exclusively.

Strength Training Options

I realize for some women it can be daunting to walk into the weight room let alone the confusion about where to start. The good news is that the most effective methods and fairly easy to learn and don’t require much fancy equipment. If you’re a beginner, you’ll also see a lot of progress early on that will keep you motivated to keep training. For people that are unconditioned and have not lifted before, I’d recommend just starting with your own bodyweight. It’s important to be comfortable controlling your own bodyweight through a full range of motion. Staples like push ups, pull-ups, squats, and leg raises will help you build a little bit of strength while getting you used to the movements.

If you’re freaked out about the weight room, unsure how to start ,or are lacking in motivation, classes are a great option. Do a little research to be sure they incorporate strength movements. Slow yoga, step classes, spin classes, or any other type of cardio class is not what you’re looking for. Your best bet is something like TRX , CrossFit, or a kettlebell boot camp. They also have great classes at gyms like Crunch that involve high intensity weight circuits. You need a class that will challenge your muscles with your own bodyweight or free weights, not just a class that will make you sweat. Remember that running is your primary cardiovascular training, so doing an additional cardio class that has no strength benefits will not be very helpful.

If you have the motivation, the best way to strength train is by using free weights in the gym. You should keep this very simple. There are a lot of extraneous and useless machines and excercises going on in most gyms which are largely a waste of time unless you’re a professional bodybuilder. You want to do movements that require full body coordination so you can build usable strength that will transfer over to running and other sports you might play. Since women have less upper body strength relative to their weight than men, it’s important to do upper body work in order to preserve your muscle mass and bone density. The best exercises for the upper body are the overhead press and the pull-up. These should be two staples in your program and you should do them as much as 4-5 times per week if you can. The presses can be done seated or standing with dumbbells, barbells, or kettlebells. Pick a weight that is challenging for 8-10 reps and do 5 sets with a few minutes rest in between. If they have a weight assisted pull-up machine at your gym, consider yourself lucky and make it your friend. Set the weight stack at whatever you need to get 5-8 good reps and do 5 sets. Set a goal for yourself to decrease the weight over time. People tend to shy away from these two exercises because they’re difficult, but try to stay diligent with them because they are very effective. They strengthen not just your arms and shoulders, but also your back and abs if you do them often enough and heavy enough. If you do just these two exercises, you can forget about bicep curls, tricep kickbacks, chest flys, shoulder raises, and other exercises you might have done before that isolated muscles. Only bodybuilder need those exercises. Since you’re a runner, you want the biggest bang for your buck in the gym. Presses and pull-ups are the meat and potatoes of training the upper body. Add in some push ups, sit ups, and dips at your discretion but stick with the main two most of the time.

For the lower body, the first thing I do with anyone when I’m starting them out is put them through the goblet squat. This is a fantastic exercise that can be done by almost anyone, even if they have poor flexibility. To do this, take a dumbbell, kettlebell, or even a weight plate and hold it very close to your chest, cupping it in your hands like you’d hold a goblet. Keep your chest up, back tight, and pull your shoulders back and down. Then simply squat down all the way so your hips go below parallel and then squat back up. For ladies, the isometric strength required to hold the dumbbell in position can even be an excellent upper body exercise. Pick a weight that makes 10-15 reps difficult.

Your best bet for time efficiency and a potent workout is to superset these exercises. Do a set of goblet squats, rest 1 minute, do a set of overhead presses, rest 1 minute, then do a set of pull-ups, rest 1 minute, and then repeat the whole process 4 times through. This will only take about 25 minutes and you’ll get a full body strength workout. There are other movements that are certainly beneficial, but they take some time to learn and usually require a little coaching. Barbell exercises like squats, deadlifts, bent over rows, and power cleans are excellent full body exercises that will increase your strength and power. If you have any interest in learning them, don’t hesitate to contact me and I can get you set up with some good materials to help get you started correctly.

In addition to gym work, I’d highly recommend some sprint training as well. It has been proven repeatedly in studies that strength and power training carries over to endurance training, but not vice versa. By replacing some of your long distance running workouts with interval track workouts of 200m, 400m, or 800m sprints, you’ll develop some powerful anaerobic capacity and kick your metabolism into overdrive. This is also crucial if you’re looking to get faster in your races. In these sessions, you’ll be able to push above your VO2 Max and lactate threshold in addition to getting your body used to running at a faster pace. Sprint workouts also have the added bonus of being without question the best way to lose body fat.

If you’re looking for a way to improve your health, get stronger, lose fat, and improve your running, make an effort to train for strength and power at least twice a week. Ideally, you should try to do two or three full body strength workouts in the gym as well as one sprint session on the track. Good luck with your training!

I get it – motivating oneself to workout on a daily basis can be incredibly hard.  Sometimes I come home from work, sit on the couch, and the thought of getting up just to make dinner makes me want to go to bed hungry.  However, the more that daily exercise is integrated into your routine, the more your body will actually start to crave a workout.  If you exercise long enough, you might begin to understand “runners high”.  You don’t have to run to feel this – it can come about with any type of intense exercise.  You also don’t need to be in a gym or even outside to push yourself through a high energy exercise routine.  I recently came across Nike’s “Nike Training Club” application and have found it to be a pretty heart pounding workout resource that gets my endorphins jumping – even if I want to collapse half way through the exercises.

Nike Training Club App

Nike Training Club is a FREE app for iPhones.  It offers four categories of exercise goals (Getting Lean, Toned, Strong, and Focused), three levels for each goal (Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced), and multiple routines at varying time lengths for each level.  The workouts vary obviously, but the general theme is interval training.  For 30 seconds to 2 minutes you perform individual exercises that often engage multiple muscles and require spurts of high intensity.  There are very few breaks for the duration of each workout, but the benefits of this type of training can be immense.  You can do most of the exercises in these workouts at home without much more than a yoga mat (or towel) and a couple of hand weights.  Some of the exercises require a medicine ball – if you don’t have one, use your hand weights.  Don’t have hand weights?  Take two half gallon milk containers (plastic) and fill with sand.

This app acts almost like a personal trainer in that it tells you when to move to the next exercise.  You can also stop the program to watch a video demonstration of how each exercise should be done so you can correct your form.  The app allows you to choose a playlist from the iPod function on your phone so your entire routine is set to music.

So what kind of exercise can you expect in one of these workouts?

-2 minutes walking lunges

-2 minutes light jogging in place

-30 seconds wood chops

-15 seconds plank

-30 seconds sumo squat with press

-30 seconds side plank

-30 seconds plank row

-15 seconds russian twists

-30 seconds cleans

-30 seconds burpees

-15 seconds toe touches

-30 seconds alternating medicine ball push-ups

-15 second kick downs

Repeat x 4 and then 3 minutes of stretching

You can also find most of these exercises on YouTube’s NikeWomen’s Channel.

Download the app today and try it out at home – you can even watch TV while you do it.  I promise it will kick your butt.

I know you were just waiting one more day to sign up for that half marathon on August 27th.  Well, you put it off one day too late.  The Giant Race for all race lengths is sold out.  I know, you’re crying into your new running shoes right now.

There is, however, still hope.  If you commit to raise at least $500 for Project Open Hand, you can register.  According to the race website:

THIS JUST IN: The Giant Race Benefiting Project Open Hand is sold out. BUT, Project Open Hand has released several dozen spots in EACH race (yes, half, 10k, and 5k included) that include a baseball game ticket to Friday night’s Runners Night game. To be eligible for these spots (and get one for FREE), we ask that you commit to fundraise $500 for Project Open Hand’s worthy programs.

If you’re thinking that the fundraising requirement is a little too much for your plate, don’t fret: the City has several other races coming up.  Check out a few of the races here or go to www.active.com and search races in the Bay Area to find one that still has spots.

For those of you who did manage to sign up for The Giant Race – I’ll see you at the finish line.

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about track running in San Francisco.  Today I headed out to Kezar Stadium for some laps and some bleacher sprints and I was reminded of why it can be a really great place for a workout.   Located on the south-eastern edge of Golden Gate Park, Kezar Stadium once housed the Raiders and the 49ers.  Today when it’s not playing host to a variety of sporting events (including local high school football games), the track is open for public use.  I could not find the hours of the stadium posted anywhere online – 311 might be of help for this.  My understanding is that the track is open until at least 7:30pm on week nights.  If you do show up and it’s closed, don’t fret (and don’t give up on your workout!!) – head into Golden Gate Park and go for a run around Big Rec (it has bleachers too).

The lower track at Kezar is your standard running track distance of 400 meters around on the inner lane.  The outer lane is a bit longer in circumference.  Four laps in the inner lane will get you to one mile – on the outer lane it depends on the width of each lane (in the case of Kezar, one outer lap is about .28 miles – four laps gets you to 1.12 miles).  The track above the bleachers is 0.4 miles around.

Ready to run some bleachers?  Start out warming up by running a couple of laps at a decent but not breathless pace.  Choose either the upper or lower tracks (the lower is made of actual track material while the upper is paved).  On either side of the field lie two sets of bleachers.  Each set contains ten sets of stairs that separate sections of seating.  Start on one side of the bleachers and sprint up the stairs (two stairs at a time).  Jog to the next set of stairs and jog down them carefully (watch out on the way down – this is when the most pain and injury can occur).  Move on to the next set of stairs.  Continue on this up and down route until you’ve completed one side of the bleachers.  Ready for more?  Run to the other side of the track and run those bleachers in the same fashion.  Need a time out with the stairs?  Run another lap or two to catch your breath and attempt the bleachers again.  When you’re completely over the bleacher aspect of this workout, see how many more laps you can get in.  Running stairs in general is a great workout – but running bleachers gives you the extra impact of the laps you get to run before and after the most intense part of your workout! (**I realized this morning that there may be some confusion over running stairs versus running bleachers – feel free to actually run up the bleacher seats.  They’re set further apart than the stairs and have a higher rise.  In other words, they’re a little harder to run up**).

Kezar Stadium

May 23-29, 2011: 4-5+ Mile Run Along Ocean Beach

Along the western edge of San Francisco lies the City’s largest and widest expanse of sand and water: Ocean Beach.  Complementing the natural dunes and cliffs of the 3.5 mile stretch from the Cliff House to Fort Funston is an approximately 2 mile paved foot and bike path that parallels the Great Highway.  Unfortunately, the weather is not entirely cooperative along this coast – summer appears in about September and says goodbye by October, but the natural air conditioning of the fog and sea air make for a pleasantly cool running area.  No need to worry about overheating here.  Free parking is available across from Golden Gate Park between Fulton and Lincoln Streets and along the Lower Great Highway.  The run below can be cut short or added to – as posted it’s about 5.3 miles.

4-5+ Mile Run Along Ocean Beach

1. Starting from the Ocean Beach parking lot across from the Beach Chalet Restaurant, head south along the foot path adjacent to the parking lot.

2. Once you hit Lincoln, make a left at the second light (you will run for a few feet on the sand and head across the street to the northern edge of the foot path.  BE CAREFUL – cars here don’t always know when their right of way is.  I almost got run over once by a motorcycle running a red light).

3.  Make a right onto the foot path and follow it to Sloat Blvd.  Watch out for bicyclists – it’s best to stay to your right in either direction.

4.  Once you hit Sloat you can take  a breather and enjoy the view by crossing the Great Highway.  There is a water fountain and restroom here as well.  If you’d rather keep going, turn around and head back to Lincoln.

5. Once at Lincoln either head straight back to the parking lot (your run will be just over 4 miles) or extend the run for another mile by crossing Lincoln and heading east into Golden Gate Park on Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive

6. (For the longer run) Once on MLK Drive you will come to a fork in the road.  Make a left onto S. Fork Drive.  This will become JFK Drive in about 400 feet.  Stay left onto JFK.

7.  Follow JFK Drive to the Great Highway.  You will pass the Dutch Windmill (on your right).

8. Once you hit the Great Highway cross the street (carefully!) and head back to the parking lot.  Congrats!  You’ve just finished your run!

Looking for a post-run refueling?  Head over to Judah and La Playa and treat yourself to a cup of coffee at Java Beach.  Their sandwiches are pretty damn good too.

Last week I blogged about the effect of running stairs on one’s training regime and fitness goals.  Tucked away in San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill, Filbert Street from Kearny to Sansome does away with car access completely.  To get up or down this tree canopied route you have to walk up or down a set of stairs.  If you start from the bottom, your end goal is a view of Coit Tower.  If you start from the top, your end goal is The Embarcadero.

Really want to get your heart pounding and see a hidden gem within the City?  Choose your starting point with a goal of running up the stairs from Sansome Street to Kearny.  Once at the bottom, you face 3 city blocks worth of over 300 steps. Peek into the front yards of the homes and cottages that line the stairs.  Be sure to look up – you might just see the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill chirping away.  Once you’re at the top, continue in the same direction and you will find yourself coming down into North Beach.  Wander up Columbus towards the Financial District and treat yourself to a Latte or Italian soda.  It’s a tough climb to the top – but it’s an “only in San Francisco does this exist” kind of experience. Besides, as you pass all of those tourists barely able to walk two steps without taking  a break, you’ll look pretty awesome.

Filbert Street Steps - Going Up



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