Friday, May 29, 2015

Galloway Tips - The Power of the Group

Here we have the latest words of wisdom from our buddy, our pal, Jeff Galloway. This particualr set of tips ring very true for me. As someone who has run almost every single mile solo, I was very strongly reminded of the benefits of running with others during the Philadelphia Half Marathon, where I scored a HUGE personal best. As you can read in the race recap, a big part of that was the fact that I had an amazing running partner with me who pushed right until the end. The benefits cannot be overstated. So without further ado...

The fun of running with a group pulled me into the sport 57 years ago.  Running and training with my friends Steve Prefontaine, Frank Shorter Bill Rodgers, brought out the best of running in me—while we became good friends, and Olympians.  As I travel the US this season, for our Galloway training program kickoffs, I see the same fun, support and friendship development.  I hope to see many of you at our free clinics.  Here are the ways I’ve observed runners of all abilities improve more and have more fun when in the right group.
1. Great friendships
2. The miles go by quicker—telling stories, sharing life experiences
3. Guidance in running with the right group for you, with the appropriate run walk run strategy
4. Because the group is waiting for you, you will stay motivated and get out there more often
5. You’ll learn about some interesting races, places to run, fun running experiences
6. On the really tough workouts and races, the group will pull you through
7. Access to tools for management of nutrition, fluids, motivation, aches/pains
8. The right group leadership can fine-tune the pace of each workout, avoiding injury/exhaustion
9. Helping others who are struggling bestows an amazing sense of achievement
10. Sharing the empowerment of finishing a long run can change your life
Most groups, like our Galloway programs allow runners to try them out for free.  Together we can celebrate fitness and inspire others to improve the quality of their lives.

So there you go folks. Go out and run and make sure you drag someone along with you. At the very least, let yourself be dragged by someone else.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

P90X3 - My Initial Impression

It's pretty amazing how the body adapts to things. Human beings really are creatures of habit. There was a time, when running was as foreign to me as the Chinese language and yet here we are, several Half Marathons and a Full Marathon later, training for the Goofy Challenge next January. Oh, I still struggle  on runs and obviously there is still a long, long way to go in my running journey but that initial shock of starting something I had never done before is long gone. My body has certainly adapted and I'm a stronger person for it. And I have very nice calves.

But running, while not a total body workout, is a total body sport and one of the main problems runners suffer through is muscle imbalance. In other words, we have strong legs and weak upper bodies, which I mentioned in a previous post, causes poor running form and makes you get fatigued faster among other things. Which is why pretty much every running plan or program includes or recommends cross-training as part of your training. What exactly that training should be is mostly left up to you. I chose a set of workout videos called P90X3.

I explained here about how I stumbled upon this particular instrument of torture and how Kat is helping me figuring out how to both run and do this program at the same time. Well, as I approach the end of my first week doing this thing here are some observations.

This is really tough
"En guerra avisada, no muere gente." Or so goes a famous saying here in Puerto Rico. It roughly translates to: "When the war is announced, nobody dies." I have never understood this saying but it's a way of saying that if you know what's coming, or if you signed up for it, you shouldn't be complaining. In that respect, there were no surprises. This thing is kicking my butt and showing me I have muscles in places I didn't know I had. And I should know because they all hurt. This program is no joke. The original P90X had hour long workouts and for this one Tony Horton (who created it) essentially condensed that into 30 minute workouts so you can finish faster. In fact, in the included guide, Tony recommends doing X3 first, then going to the original but that doesn't mean that one is harder than the other. My opinion on this is that they are factoring in that it will be easier for people to manage such a tough program in shorter time chunks and after you get hooked (hopefully by seeing the results it can get you) then you can try the longer workouts.

This is not P90X: The Short Version
I own the original and I can tell you P90X3 is not the same stuff rehashed. Because the original is longer, Tony takes the time to do other types of exercises and focuses more on weights. With X3, the exercises are more functional (at least, that's the word that come to mind) and in some ways complex. It's a jam-packed 30 minutes for sure and while I'm suffering a bit, I like it.

I suck
Not having done a lot of cross-training(read: none) over the last three years, I sure wasn't expecting to breeze through these workouts but wow! I'm in pretty bad shape. Sure, I can run 5 miles no problem but my upper body strength? Zero. Push-ups and pull-ups? Can't do them. And don't get me started on my core, which is so important to proper running. When it comes to abs, I make the Pillsbury Doughboy look like Ryan Gosling.

And then there's X3 Yoga...

I swear, I think Tony Horton made this video just so he could laugh watching me try to do it. As runner, I knew tight hamstrings was in the cards. In fact, when I saw the Orthopedist for my knee, he mentioned that it was so. But this... is downright comedic. And it's not just the hamstrings. I'm about as flexible as a medieval boarding school. Having said that, I also begrudgingly admit that this is the video  I will likely benefit from the most.

Of course, the beauty of this program lies in it's variety. The program is divided into three blocks separated by recovery weeks with different workouts for each so I'm merely skimming the surface here. There is a lot more to it than this. So I will let you know how it goes as always.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Major Kitchen Makeover

"You can't outrun a bad diet." I can't begin to tell you how many times I have heard that over the last three years.

Not only do I keep hearing it, but I live it on a daily basis. It's really simple: When I watch what I eat, I lose weight. When I don't, nothing happens or worse, I gain some back. No amount of running can save me from that fact. Nutrition has got to be on point.

A while back I wrote about a documentary I watched called Fed Up that really put things in perspective about the need to cut back on processed foods and especially unneeded sugars. My family was totally stuck in the "Buy fast food because I don't have enough money to go grocery shopping./I don't have money for groceries because I buy fast food all the time." circle of total viciousness. I wanted to do something about it. Especially now with the Goofy Challenge coming up.

So last week I told you about how I will begin cross-training and stuff. Well, my wife bravely said she will do P90X3 too. In fact, she already began doing them. Before me. I'll explain why in a bit. The thing is, with so much positive energy going around the house (and a tax return check arriving at just the right moment) we decided to just do it and last Saturday I left home and when I came back, the mini-van was filled to the brim with good, fresh, wholesome food. Fruits, veggies, lean beef, fish and poultry and mostly unprocessed stuff. It felt so good to see the fridge filled with the good stuff.

I also sat down with the wife and developed a plan on how we were gonna eat. Essentially three meals and two snacks per day. Thankfully, we are already experts at using MyFitnessPal so tracking all this will be pretty easy. Also, as the resident chef of the house, I have been looking for healthier recipes as well as developing some of my own. Some exciting times going on in our house. Keep in mind, we didn't buy any "diet" products. No "low-fat" or "light" anywhere to be seen. I also bought some protein powder for after our workouts.

More than anything else, our goal right now is to severely cut down on fast food. Weekends especially are really bad in our house. This week has been pretty stellar so far.

So last Monday, my wife began P90X3. Why not me? It seems my excitement got the better of me or something. I must have been jumping for joy while I was sleeping Sunday night because when I woke up Monday morning, I could hardly move my neck. It was really painful. I spent the next three days like that. I'm a lot better now. It still hurts a bit but now I can move my neck somewhat. Things happen for a reason though because during the week, Kat sent over my running/P90X3 hybrid schedule so now Monday I begin full on. The bad part will be that my wife will already be past the "soreness stage" and I won't be able to make fun of her any more just as I will be going through it myself. Not fair at all.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Elusive Creature Known as Cross-Training

To classify this running journey so far as successful would be a gross understatement. I have now been running continuously since March of 2012. That's three whole years of running. There are very few things in my life that I have done regularly for so long. So Happy Birthday to me!

There have been tough times for sure and not everything has happened according to plan but where is the fun in everything going right?! More importantly, the idea of stopping is not even in the vicinity of my brain. All this, coming from a guy that would have preferred being injected with the bubonic plague instead of going out for a run.

There has been one thing (actually there have been several but you know, one thing at a time) that I just can't seem to get a grip on and as the title of this post suggests, it's cross-training. With the Goofy Challenge now officially in the schedule, I think it's time I give it another go.

When I started running, I knew about cross-training but avoided it. This was on purpose. I wanted to focus on just running and did not want anything else to distract me. It worked. Running became part of my life. Now there's one more thing to add.

Past attempts have been unsuccessful. I joined a gym a while back. Planet Fitness was just starting to open gyms here in Puerto Rico and the price was surely right, especially compared to other gyms I've been to. I was very excited. The reality was that it became a bit of a scheduling nightmare. With three little girls to take care of, feed, bathe, do homework, comb their hair and put to bed every evening, the time I had to spend at the gym was short before my guilt-o-meter started to kick in. Rest assured, my wife never complained. Not once. I just couldn't shake the feeling of unfairness of it all. Of course, it didn't help that the place was absolutely packed to the rafters every time I went. It seems I wasn't the only one who saw the price/convenience potential of it all and signed up as well. It would take me twice as long to get a workout in simply waiting around for things to be free so I could use them. This got old really quickly.

Now, with more PF's popping up everywhere and the "hot new thing" factor wearing down, this is something I'm not totally discarding in the future. Plus, kids grow up right? This whole assembly line process we go through every night will get easier. I mean, they have to begin doing stuff by themselves eventually. Right? Please? Anyone?

Cycling on the other hand, has been a total success. My knees are certainly thankful. Does it officially count as cross-training? Well... I think yes and no. While it has helped immensely, it does nothing for the upper body which is sort of the point. Not only is good upper/lower body balance important in running and your running form but I also have the upper body strength of a 6 year old. How many pull-ups have I done in my life? None whatsoever. I'm actually afraid that if I run the Disney Half or full marathon, that the toy soldier from Toy Story, who usually stands on the exit ramp on the way to Hollywood Studios will tell me to do push-ups (as he often does) and I won't be able to.

And now, something from the past comes back and opens up some possibilities.

A long while ago, when man was young and the dragon was already old (brownie points if you where that is from) I did a workout video called Turbo Jam. This is from when I was avoiding running at all cost. Think of it as a Zumba kind of thing but more kickboxing than dancing. It was kind of cool. My wife loved it but some of the moves didn't seem to agree with my back. I did it for long enough to muster the courage to order and try P90X (they are from the same company). If you haven't heard about P90X, then you probably don't own a television. At the very least, you probably don't have cable.

P90X was very tough but I liked it. The problem was that the workouts are very long. Once I started running I tried to get the DVD's out from the dust and set up some sort of hybrid running/workout schedule but I didn't really know how to go about it and again, the length of the workouts were kind of problematic. I was improvising and was a bit afraid of doing more harm than good. Fast forward to present time.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Five Ways to Get Faster - Jeff Galloway Tips

Here are some more tips from Jeff Galloway. It's all about speed today so if you are looking to reach some new PR's or if you have been struggling to get to a new level you might want to pay attention to these today. Hope you guys find it as helpful as I do. Especially the stuff on running form.


Longer Long Runs

Increasing the length of the longest long run has produced the greatest amount of improvement that I've seen among my coaching clients.  Several surveys have shown more than 13 minutes of time improvement when runners increase their longest long run from 20 miles to 26 miles before a marathon.  Comparable time improvements are experienced in 10K runners and half marathoners when they increase their long runs above race distance as noted in my YEAR ROUND PLAN book that covers all the distances.  Long runs must be at least 2 min/mi slower than current ability, with liberal walk breaks.  The slower the pace, the quicker the recovery.  I suggest doing the long runs every 2-3 weeks.

Speed Repetitions—increasing the number

My runners have improved by an average of over 6 minutes in a marathon (3+ minutes in a half marathon) by increasing the number of speed repetitions to 14 x 1 mile for the marathon, and 14 x 800 meter for the half marathon.  I recommend that each of these be run 30 sec/mi faster than goal pace.  The recovery interval is a 5 min walk between miles and a 3 minute walk between 800's.  These workouts prepare one to maintain or pick up pace at the end of the goal race, instead of slowing down.  See GALLOWAY TRAINING PROGRAMS & HALF MARATHON books for details (

Improve Running Form

Most runners I've monitored have improved several minutes in a marathon by fine-tuning their running form.  As the mechanics become smoother and within one's limits, there is a significant reduction in aches, pains and injuries.  The two best ways to improve form are water running and cadence drills.
•        water running uses the same basic motion as when running on land, using a flotation device so that the feet don't touch the bottom of the pool.  When done for at least 15 minutes, once a week, the legs find a more efficient path through the water—eliminating extraneous motion.
•        The cadence drill is done for 30 seconds, counting the number of times the foot touches the ground.  This drill is detailed in most of my books.  I've found the key to improving speed on the mechanical side is quicker turnover.

Race in Shorter Events

Dropping down a standard distance or two can improve your mechanics for running faster and your ability to handle a higher level of oxygen debt.  On non-long-run weekends, during a half marathon program, try some 5K or 10K races.  When training for a marathon, race at the 10K or half marathon distance.  At first, the faster pace of the shorter distance may seem awkward.  But after several short races, you will adapt—especially if you do some speed training for the shorter/faster event.  These performance improvements can translate into faster times in the longer distances.  My book 5K/10K details the training and the racing strategies for these events.

Hill Training

The only way I've found to build strength for running is to run hill repeats.  On a moderate grade hill, start at a jog and pick up the turnover rate of the feet and legs as you go up the hill, shortening your stride.  Walk down the hill for recovery.  Don't sprint, and follow the other hill training guidelines in my books and at  The strength from hill training will allow you to perform better in speed sessions which will help you improve in your goal race.  You'll also run faster on hilly courses, during your races.

Monday, May 4, 2015

What a week!

I'll be honest and say there wasn't a lot of running involved but there was some running and I seem to be digging myself out of this funk and that is a good thing.

First, this last week was the first time in a while (probably since finishing the Puerto Rico Half Marathon) that I felt I was running well enough to actually count as running. It helped a lot that I was able to run during the week with some consistency. I'm not out of the woods yet but it is definitely getting better.
It's on now
Then, on the 28th I officially signed up for the Goofy Challenge! Oh, things just got real for sure. Plus, my brother, who so graciously joined me last time and gave me so much support, asked me to sign him up for the Half Marathon, which will be his first. No longer a spectator, folks. It will be nice to have some company during the challenge, even if it is for only a third of it but I will take it. Not gonna lie. I'm a little scared, but it's a "good" scared. I just have to remind myself that thousands of people do this every year and that there is an even more insane group of people who run the Dopey Challenge. This is doable. I can do it. I will share my game plan for this challenge soon.

It was good that my brother asked me to sign him up (he was on vacation). By the end of the day, the Half was sold out. The 5K and 10K lasted a only a few hours and as of this writing the only things left are a couple of Goofy spots and the marathon. Does anyone need reminding of how popular these races are? If you are on the fence, go and sign up right now for what's left. You might not get a chance later.

Finally, it was my 10 year wedding anniversary! Of course, I was not about to let such a momentous occasion simply go by. I mean, 10 years of this poor woman putting up with me... she needs a medal all to herself. We don't really get a lot of chances to go out just the two of us with three little girls running around, so we took advantage of my Mother's offer to take them for the night and abused it. LOL I dropped them at noon on Saturday, then we went to the movies and saw Avengers: Age of Ultron (WOW! Loved it!) then we went to dinner, then a comedy show, and finally ended up at a Frankie "The Jet" 's house, where we saw the Pacquiao/Mayweather fight and as a bonus, the last moments of nail-biter game 7 between the Clippers and Spurs before the fight started. We got home at about 2am. The last time we did that was... uhmm... give me a sec... actually, I don't think we have ever been out so late. We sure crammed as much as we could to the day.

So quite a busy week but a very good one at that.