Sunday, March 29, 2009

Born to run long?

Almost all long-distance runners have heard it at some point: "Humans are not made to run that long." These words are usually uttered by concerned family members or even physicians.

I often respond that humans are not made to do many things, like climbing Everest, diving 1000 feet, swimming in Artic waters, or trekking across the Gobi desert. Our large brains help us figure out how to do things that our body is "not meant to do".

But it turns out that at least for running long distances, we may not be going against nature. Long distance running may be an evolutionary adaption that allowed us to run our prey to death.

According to Harvard scientists, Daniel Lieberman and Campbell Rolian, humans may have evolved to run for extended lengths of time, most likely for obtaining food, and was the catalyst that forced Homo erectus to evolve from its apelike ancestors. To learn more, read this (thanks Lorinda!).

Long gone are the days when running was considered to be detrimental to our health. I even remember reading that running a marathon shortens your life by a year! Nonsense. A long time ago, if you were not able to run for a long time, you may have starved. So there, I have given you ammunition to respond to the humans-are-not-made-for-running comment.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


As a runner, I tend to neglect my upper body. After I realized I could not easily push large doors open without leaning into them, I decided to start doing push ups every morning.

A co-worker pointed me to the 100 push ups website, which contains a 6 week training program to help you complete 100 push ups. Runners love training schedules, so this website quickly became one of our store's favorites.

I started with 3 push ups at a time (again, we are talking "girl" push ups). The next morning, my arms ached, but I stuck to the program. It was amazing how fast I gained strength (granted, there was a lot of room for improvement). I soon graduated to normal push ups, and I showed off my biceps "line" to Eric almost every day (I know, it's pathetic that I would be so proud of a line, not even a bump).

To encourage good push up form, we got a pair of rotating push up handles (sort of like these ones). They make a huge difference.

A welcome consequence of my push up routine is that my abs got stronger as well: you need to engage them to keep a straight back. And even better, I also noticed my posture improved.

The amazing thing is, you don't need a gym membership. All you need is 5-10 minutes every morning.

So, can I do 100 push ups? No. Not even close. But, I don't lean into doors anymore!

Saturday, March 7, 2009


When life gets busy, we tend to sacrifice our hobbies and exercise activities before anything else. I personally refuse to give up running. I simply go insane if I don't run. My work requires me to sit for long hours in front of the computer, so if I don't run, I pretty much become a hybrid beast: the human-chair.

But, how to keep running (walking, biking, etc) when our schedules are so full? Well, I think I have come up with a possible solution for many of us: run-commute. And I am not the only one. Increasingly, runners are joining cyclists on the road to get to work every morning (for example, see this Seattle Times article).

However, the logistics of running to work are not as straight forward as biking to work. You can't carry a change of clothes and shoes with you (not to mention, lunch, a laptop, etc).

So here are a few tips from my own experience:

- Once a week, drive to work and bring in a large gym bag with clothes and lunch food for 4 days. Hopefully your company offers a refrigerator and a safe place to store your belongings.

- If your company does not have showers it gets tricky. I have not tried it, but I hear some people use a damp towel to wipe sweat off their skin and this seems to work pretty well for them.

- On your running-commuting day, wake up early enough to have a light breakfast (my favorite all-time is bread with peanut butter and sliced bananas).

- Before going to bed, get everything ready. Look up the weather forecast, and prepare your clothes appropriately. Fill up your water bottles, etc. That way in the morning, it won't be so hard to get up and you will have a few extra minutes to relax before your run.

- If your commute is too long, find a Park and Ride where you can park your car and then run into work from there. Some Park and Rides fill up early, so make sure you check beforehand at about what time it gets full.

- When running, use a waist belt with a small bag to keep your keys, credit card, ID, cell phone, and a few dollars just in case.

- Use reflective clothing and flashing lights if you start running in the dark! Be very defensive. Caffeine has not kicked in for most drivers yet, and they are in autopilot.

- Going back home: here you have two options. Run back as well (hard core!), or, figure out a system by which you can drive back. I usually vanpool back to a Park and Ride, or take the bus back to the same Park and Ride. I actually quite enjoy riding the bus back home. It gives me a buffer between work and home to zone out.

So, does this really save me time? you ask. I think it depends. For me, it works quite well. Instead of driving my car into work for 25 minutes from home (times 2, that's 50 minutes a day of time spent commuting), I run in from a Park and Ride (about 1.5 hours total to get to work), and I only take one shower a day instead of two. So in the end, I save myself about 30 minutes.

But time savings are not the only benefit. You save gas, and parking if you have to pay for it at work. And (big AND), you are greener (the big trendy word these days).

It takes a few weeks to get a system working. You have to fine tune it for your own situation. I initially started only once a week, and as I learned more, I started doing it more frequently.

So there you go, another way of staying active.