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The Only Apps You’ll Ever Need: Mobile apps for the Serious Trail Runner

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Everyone has their own reasons for trail running. Some do it for fitness, while some do it just to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, and to get in touch with nature and feel the wind in their hair. Whatever their reasons, you’re not likely to find a trail runner who’s attached to their phone. The following apps, however, could change all that.

While most runners use their phones and other portable media devices to listen to music, smartphones can actually help trail runners get more out of their runs! The past few years have seen smartphone usage climb to unforeseen rates, and while sports apps currently rank as the least popular category for downloads on iTunes right now, the sheer number of people adopting smartphones has been enough to prompt sports enthusiasts to develop new apps. Gaming Realms, operators of online gaming website castlejackpot.com, has noted that growth in mobile internet “is one of the most powerful trends in the internet landscape and the global smartphone and tablet installed base is expected to exceed the PC installed base during 2013.” Because of this, even FIFA turned to mobile internet to increase fan engagement for this year’s World Cup.

Your phone can be more than just a tool for playing music. With the right apps, it could rival an experienced trainer or running buddy. To turn your phone into the best trail running tool you could ever ask for, try downloading the following:

1. RunKeeper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although not made specifically for trail runners, Runkeeper has everything you’d ever need in a running app: GPS, lap timing, activity recording, goal-keeping, and route-keeping.

2. Endomondo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking for an app that lets you share your trail runs with the world? Endomondo does just that, allowing runners to tag and assign photos to certain trails and keep track of your abilities. The app is even integrated with various sports watches!

3. Strava

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re still not sold on the idea of bringing your mobile phone with you out on runs, you can try Strava, an ingenious app that can be used with a variety of watches, and even Garmin devices.

Military-Style Pull Up Workout

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Pull ups are one of the best upper body workouts that you can do.  They force you to use all of the muscles above your waist in order to reach the top of the bar.  When done correctly (which means not kipping like a CrossFitter) you can seriously transform your upper body strength.  Your pull up workout should be done once a week in order to both maintain and achieve the best possible results.  You can also incorporate your pull up workout with your gym routine.  For example, I do my own personal pull up workout and workout my back muscles on the same day at the gym.  However, it is not imperative that you do both.  It is all about personal preference, as well as one’s own physical condition.  With that being said, you can also tailor the repetitions to fit your own physical abilities.  The repetitions provided in this workout are only a model for you follow.  I hope you enjoy the workout, and feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns while executing this exercise (brianansley.ba@gmail.com).

Equipment Needed:

- Dip Belt (optional)

- Weighted Plates (optional)

- Pull Up Bar

 

Pyramid Pull Ups (30-60 seconds of rest between sets):

 

Set 1: 10 reps

Set 2: 9 reps

Set 3: 8 reps

Set 4: 7 reps

Set 5: 6 reps

Set 6: 5 reps

Set 7: 4 reps

Set 8: 3 reps

Set 9: 2 reps

Set 10: 1 rep (hold your chin above the bar until muscle failure)

*Repeat pyramid sets, but this time work from 1 rep to 10 reps.  Once you’ve completed both pyramids, do the entire workout again as a chin up  workout (palms facing towards you this time).

Reebok Spartan Race Partners with NBC Sports Group to bring Adventure Racing to Television!

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Barb Wire Crawl

I knew they would eventually do it, Spartan Race is now going to be televised! I recently got interested in Spartan Race because of the close ties to the military type obstacles and military style exercises it takes to complete these gnarly obstacle courses.

Why so gnarly you ask? Because it was started by a Royal Marine who’s first race direction didn’t have a waiver and he named it Death Race. That’s gnarlesbarkley and why I can’t wait to watch the World Championships on NBC. Think World’s Strongest Man in an Octagon with a lot of mud and barbed wire. Plus a lot of grunting, yelling, and relentless opposition. You have to want to finish this race. This is death, not your Mom’s tough, muddy adventure race. (disclaimer: I love my Mother and all Moms, tough or mudlike)

NBC will be airing the 2013 Reebok Spartan Race World Championship featuring athletes competing for $250k cash & prizes! That’s crazy! I wonder how much Usain Bolt gets paid to run? I bet it’s not as much as Jay-Z gets paid by Reebok to land in Europe.

This is revolutionary for the Sport of Adventure Racing and I’m excited to be a part of it happening. Spartan Race is also doing a 90 minute special on the athletes competing that will feature those whom have overcome other types of obstacles through running. My battle buddy, Brian Ansley, and I have both experienced difficult transitions to civilian life and we both agree exercise is key, that’s why we’re doing SeriousRunning together and why we dig what Spartan Race is doing. It’s good for all Veterans to have battle buddies.

You should sign up if you want to put your body through physical pain and intestinal fortitude training. Your body will recover, but your mind will never be the same. Show Spartan Race who’s mentally tougher, you or some former Royal Marine dude.

And watch the special on the athletes on NBC. Maybe you’ll see Ansley…

Welcome to the Heist. #Macklemore

A Strong Upper Body Can Drastically Improve Your Run

Monday, August 5th, 2013

Runners have the tendency to focus primarily on the strength and condition of their lower body.  Obviously strong and well conditioned legs are vital aspect of a well-built runner.   However, upper body strength plays a key role in a runner’s form, efficiency, and overall success.  I realize how time consuming both running and putting in work at the gym can be.  The good news is that some of the best upper body workouts can be done in your garage, outside on your porch, or even at the park where you do some of your running.  The location of your workouts is not so much of a contributing factor to your success, but consistency is the thing that will be the game changer.  Just like training for a trail or road race, you must be just as consistent with training your upper body as well.

If there’s one thing I learned from my PT sessions as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division, besides running my ass off, it’s that you can never get enough pushups and pull-ups in for a workout.  With that being said, I’ve taken this vast knowledge of military-style workouts and tweaked them in a way to SERIOUSLY step up anyone’s upper body strength.  Pull-ups are considered one of the best upper body workouts because it works every muscle above the waist.  I know there are some “modifications” out there now to the pull-up, such as the kipping pull-up that crossfitters use, but I like to stick to the old fashioned method.  The traditional pull-up forces you to use only your upper body muscles to reach the top of the bar.  Pushups are also an excellent upper body workout that can be done just about anywhere.  It is best to mix up your pushup routine with various styles of pushups, but again, the key is consistency as it is with anything else.

Having a strong upper body, as well as a solid core, allows you to keep your proper running form even as your legs begin to tire.  Not only does this help during your run, but it will also help fend off those nagging injuries that can occur.  As your body becomes tired during a run, your running form will begin to weaken.  Many runners don’t realize that this isn’t happening because of weak legs, or a poor conditioning level.  This is happening because your upper body is wearing out faster during your run than both your lower body and cardiovascular system.  According to a Runner’s World article online, Olympians, and elite runners alike, are taking part in strength training to help improve their running game.  According to the article, “Based on the various training programs used by the elites, it’s clear that we don’t yet know the ideal strength training routine. What we do know is that strength training in many different forms results in better running economy and an improvement in running time to exhaustion. Put simply, you’ll be able to run faster, longer and stronger.”

I will be posting my own personal pushup and pull-up workouts, with pictures, very soon.  It will be a very useful tool for runners at any level, and your upper body will love you for it (except for the initial soreness).   Bottom line; don’t neglect your upper body.  Think of running as a full body workout.  For that reason alone, it is just as important to have a strong upper body as it is to have a strong lower body when you’re out there burning up the street or trails.

Remember to keep an eye out for my military-style workouts that are coming very soon on Seriousrunning!

SeriousRunning – Trail Running, Adventure Races, Military-style Fitness

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

Hello, I’m Chris Barber, CEO and co-founder of SeriousRunning.

In 2008 I separated from the Army after 4.5 years of service. I knew I wanted to be an “entrepreneur,” so I started in commercial real estate development. I had no idea what I really wanted to do. I attended graduate school at night with hopes that would give me a clearer vision of my career path, but it didn’t. The military taught me tons of intangibles, but my experience didn’t seem to fit any of the skills needed for the jobs I was seeking. While I enjoyed my years of service and performed well, I left the military because I wanted to be in a different type of organization and making that career transition seemed impossible at times.

I joined my brother and took over one of his newly launched web properties, SeriousRunning. I’ve been a runner my entire life and know a lot of about the subject, but I didn’t know anything about technology or websites. I reasoned, ‘I didn’t know Field Artillery but I learned how to do that, how tough could it be?’

I spent years posting, engaging, and learning on SeriousRunning until I finally worked too hard, my running (plus jumping out of airplanes in the 82nd Airborne Division) caused my knees to give out. After MRIs, PT (physical therapy, not physical training), and many appointments, my final prognosis from the VA doctor’s was, “Stop running.” Thanks…

I spent about 2 years off running but was able to get a 2nd, non-VA opinion recently. This time the prognosis was similar, but actually helpful, “You ran too much, stop running, cross train and build up the other muscles in your legs.” So I was too serious of a runner. I’ll guess I’ll have to add that to my other two weaknesses, “working too hard” and “being too nice.”

So I reached out to my battle buddy from Iraq, Brian Ansley (who called me in less than a minute after us not speaking for years) and told him I wanted to do a race in 90 days with him and he’s all for it! He’s a stud and crushes adventure races, so hopefully he doesn’t embarrass me. We’re going to be working on SeriousRunning together and telling you about our adventure race in 90 days as well as tips for military style training. We’re deciding between Spartan Race, XTERRA, or Tough Mudder right now. Any recommendations on which race are appreciated!

What I hope to accomplish with this race:

1. Prove to the doctor’s that I can still run at a high level

2. Prove Veterans can be successful in Internet and Technology jobs

Running was my passion in 2008, that’s why I started SeriousRunning, but getting Veterans Technology jobs is my passion now.

Running and exercise helped ease my transition from a combat environment to civilian life. I was lucky that I had a brother working in Technology and was given the chance to learn a growing industry; I want to give other Veterans this same opportunity. Ansley is about to start graduate school in Environmental Studies and feels like he’s one of the lucky ones too. His story is much more powerful than mine. We both have a passion to help more Veterans become the lucky ones like us. Even if we have to stay up all night

 

Happy Trails,

Chris Barber 

 

Cross Training

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

 

I thought I’d ease back into this blogging thing with the ever popular “toes with background” picture. Gotta get ready for the XTERRA World Championships

I took this picture to show the alignment in my legs. See how they don’t seem symmetrical? It’s because they’re not, I didn’t cross train. The swimsuit? Oh, no, that’s just my ordinary swimsuit. It’s suppose to be like that.

The problem is that my quads are freakishly larger than the rest of the muscles in my legs because of too much running (apparently there’s such a thing). My experience in the Army was to always push through walls and not to feel pain, but I’ve since learned that it’s better to train smarter. I didn’t listen to my body and pushed way too hard.

When you over train one area of your body you ignore the other muscles. It’s all about opportunity costs, pick what you want to improve and start there. For me right now, it’s everything but my quads….

So I swam. And then layed out.

And gave some muscles some much needed attention.

SeriousRunning back in bizness.

Monday, July 15th, 2013

SeriousRunning is back in business. The business of getting back in shape. After 20 years of competitive running, I had to stop due to injury. After MRIs, physical therapy, and a variety of treatments, I gave up on cardio exercise for the past 1.5 years. After trying all of these remedies, my doctor’s final advice was, “Just stop running.” I was devastated.

Running is what I had been doing my whole life. As long as I can walk, I want to run. Recently I got a doctor’s 2nd opinion, the prognosis: “You’ve over worked your running muscles, stop running….but do do any other fitness activities.” So I’m back and ready for my next challenge baby! I guess I’ll just have to be more careful about my only weakness, that I work too much…

I thought my knee issues stemmed from jumping out of airplanes in the 82nd Airborne Division or maybe from “taking a knee” too many times in Iraq, but I think I just overworked my running muscles. I’ve learned the importance of cross-training and plan to give myself a trail triatholon race goal instead of purely a run. I love to trail run, running will always be my passion, it’s what I’m best at, but we learn and grow by challenging ourselves in new ways. I will be competing in the XTERRA World Championships.

I started SeriousRunning with my brother, Jeff Barber, in 2008, and at that time trail running, adventure racing, and XTERRA began gaining popularity. I ran many of the XTERRA trail races and wrote about them here. I started National Trail Running Day in 2009 and had thousands of participants in the inaugural year. 2013 date TBD.

I want to come back from this injury, accomplish my goals, and prove to myself that “I’ve still got it.”

Hope you enjoy my efforts. I also plan to improve this site, please feel free to send me a message at chris@seriousrunning.com. Happy Trails!

Soft Star RunAmoc Minimalist Trail Running Shoe Review

Monday, February 27th, 2012

soft-star-runamoc-minimalist-trail-running-shoe-picture

Several months ago I acquired a pair of RunAmoc trail running shoes/moccasins from Soft Star shoes. If you would like to skip all of the details of the review below, I will cut to the chase: I highly recommend these shoes. If you are a barefoot road runner who wants to transition to trails, these would be an ideal choice. If you are a minimalist runner, and want a truly minimal shoe for road or trails, these probably trump any other product on the market when it comes to minimalism.

The sole of the shoe is a composite produced by Vibram, with a very light tread. The thickness is completely uniform and only about 3mm thick. Soft Star also makes a version of the RunAmoc with a thicker sole and aggressive tread, but given my bias towards absolute minimalism (bare), I ordered their ‘street’ shoe. The upper is 100% leather and is perforated throughout for great ventilation. A simple drawstring around the ankle allows the shoe to be secured at the front with a typical knot.

Until a few months ago, I was running between 30 and 60 miles a week (I had to quit running at the end of 2011 while I finished my doctoral degree and searched for a job). Since 2007, I have been a barefoot purist, running without anything on my feet and disliking the way many have used ‘barefoot running’ as a substitute for ‘minimalist running‘. This, of course, has made winter running a bit difficult, as I’ve always been too proud to cover my feet, even when temperatures are sub-freezing (the two exceptions being for December marathons with start temperatures in the 20s). Aside from the two winter marathons that I ran in Land’s End slippers (similar to leather-bottom moccasins), I have run one marathon barefoot, as wells as some 5k and 10k races. I also enjoy summer all-comers track meets, and typically compete in the 1500/mile. To keep myself fit for track racing, my weekly running typically incorporates short intervals at the track (400m) and tempo runs. The majority of my running over the past few years has been done in Durham, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia, but I have also run barefoot as I’ve traveled within the U.S. and abroad.

Benefits of the shoe:soft-star-runamoc-minimalist-trail-running-shoe-review

1. Foremost, these shoes have enabled me to begin trail running. Although I love to mountain bike, I didn’t realize how exhilarating trail-running would be. I’ve used the shoes both for casual runs and for one 15k trail run. In all cases, they performed excellently.

2. The sole of the shoe is truly minimalist. Unlike other minimalist running shoes on the market, the sole of this shoe has a uniform thickness and is quite thin. Even Vibram FiverFingers or Fila Skeletoes add additional material in certain areas around the heel, ball, and toes. The sole uniformity is beneficial because it ensures that the shoe will be less likely to cause problems in a proper barefoot stride, meaning that moving back and forth between barefoot running and RunAmoc running will be as seamless as possible. For me, this means that I can easily interchange days running barefoot on the road and using RunAmocs on the trail, or wearing RunAmocs on cold days and running barefoot on warmer days.

3. The shoes are very lightweight and durable. After a few months of running, they have shown very little wear.

4. The perforated upper makes the shoe very breathable (as well as contributing to the lack of weight). With plenty of air gliding across your foot, you really don’t feel like you’re wearing a shoe.

5. The shoe is quite wide at the ball of the foot, and is not restrictive around the foot – it allows plenty of room for the foot to expand naturally while contacting the ground. Despite this, the shoe never felt too loose while trail running. It always maintained contact with the foot without shifting.

Downsides of the shoe:

1. The shoes left a black residue on my feet during the first few weeks of running. This was not a major problem – just an annoyance.

2. In my personal opinion, the shoes aren’t nearly as cool looking as other products on the market. Soft Star has partly rectified this issue, as they have introduced a number of new moccasins in the latter part of 2011.

3. Given their light weight, and the perforated upper, these shoes are not ideal for very low temperatures (low, of course, is a subjective assessment). They are definitely much better than running completely barefoot on cold pavement, but other shoes on the market would provide more warmth.

I should emphasize one aspect of these shoes: I have found these shoes ideal for trail running, but for many other runners, the sole would be too thin. In particular, if you are a barefoot road runner, seeking to transition to trails, these shoes would probably suit you perfectly. If you are simply looking for a minimalist road running shoe (whether or not you have any experience with minimalist running) these shoes would also probably suit you perfectly. However, if you are looking for a minimalist trail running shoe and don’t have any experience with barefoot running, I believe the RunAmoc with thicker ‘trail’ sole would be better.

In conclusion, I absolutely love my RunAmocs. They have performed well in a variety of conditions and are the most minimal shoe that I have put on my foot. There is no doubt that I will be a long-time Soft Star customer as I will continue to use their products off-road and in cold weather.

Is Treadmill Running a good Work Out?

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

treadmill-runningI’ve never been a fan of running on the treadmill.  Maybe if they had a “trail” setting on it; that would be pretty sweet. I miss the outdoors when running on the treadmill; even if the weather is less than perfect, I miss it.  I also don’t get the feeling of accomplishment at the end of a treadmill workout, probably because I never go anywhere.  More importantly, I don’t think I get as good of a work out running on a treadmill and don’t think the distance tracking is accurate.

One reason that treadmill running seems easier than trail running outside is that there is no air resistance.  You may think that air resistance isn’t that big of a deal, but some runners can experience a 10%  harder run when running outside vs. inside.  Try running behind your buddy next time; the larger the buddy, the more you’ll be able to feel the difference.  Drafting is an important part of competitive trail running for a reason.  Wind resistance matters.

The problem with treadmills is that there is no variation in running surfaces.  The ability to maneuver branches, rocks, roots, and sharp turns is key to being a successful trail runner.  Not only does treadmill running not improve those skills, it can diminish them as runners become more complacent.  Treadmill runners tend to develop a more relaxed manner of running, trail runners need to be aggressive.

The thing that I like least about treadmill running is that it’s inside.  I don’t like to watch tv when I run.  I don’t like to listen to a Pandora “running” station.  I definitely don’t read a magazine when running.  I like to go on an adventure.  I like not knowing what is coming around the corner.  I like not knowing exactly how far or how difficult my run will be, but I am a risk lover.  There is something to be said for the consistency of treadmill running; and it will probably be said by someone who is risk adverse.

I’ve always lived somewhere I can run outside all year long, but treadmill running can be a good substitute if you absolutely can not run outside.  In addition, treadmill running can help runners that need a little more assistance in training keep a consistent pace and run accurate tempo runs.  In addition, some runners like to do another activity when running; such multitaskers.  Overall though, if you’re a treadmill runner, jump off sometime and concentrate on the trails!

Does the Military allow Minimalist Running Shoes for PT?

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

army-platoonI began my trail running days in the sandhills of Ft. Bragg, NC and have been running off road ever since.  I also began deteriorating my knees by jumping out of airplanes at Ft. Bragg, NC, which has lead me to only running in minimalist shoes today.  Since minimalist running has kept me trail running with less pain I wondered if others in the military, specifically those who are Airborne qualified and have some of the same knee issues as I do, had begun minimalist running.

I know the largest organization in the United States is slow to change, but I found that some soldiers were finding ways around the regulations to wear Vibram Five Fingers and other minimalist running shoes while others were being told flat out that they could not PT (physical training) wearing them.  FM 20-21 states that soldiers must wear white ankle socks with no logos while conducting PT.  The first loophole some soldiers point to is that the FM doesn’t state that soldiers must wear socks, just that if they do, the socks must cover their ankles and have no logo.  Since most commanders will not honor loopholes, some soldiers have been wearing Injinji socks which fit in Vibram FiveFingers to cover their ankles.  Another part of PT regulation states that soldiers may not wear athletic shoes that are “trendy” or “faddish.”  For this reason many base commanders have banned Vibram FiveFingers and other minimalist running shoes completely.  I somewhat understand the reasoning because sometimes if you give soldiers an inch they will take a mile; and being in the correct uniform is important for building unit cohesion.  However, making a regulation based on “trendiness” may be constraining soldiers who legitimately need to wear minimalist running shoes to avoid injury.  According to the Army Times, even Lt. Cmdr. John Mahoney, a Navy doctor and physical therapist says, “Vibram FiveFingers are the best thing out there for rehabilitating lower extremity injuries.”

In a typical flip floppy manner, the Army has also banned minimalist running shoes on the PT test because they believe the shoes may be “unfair.”  So if they are deemed unfair then they must help soldiers run better in training, right?!  Then why not let soldiers wear them?  This may be a case in which the military must make a blanket policy to cover the well-being of the whole instead of allowing Commanders make their own SOPs (standard operating procedures).  The same Army Times article quotes Dr. Steven Pribut, a podiatrist and sports medicine expert in Washington, DC, who specializes in working with runners saying, “I’m seeing a lot more injuries from people wearing them.  It’s not a problem with the shoes themselves; it’s mostly a function of people doing too much too soon.”  Military personnel are definitely susceptible to over doing it because they are all taught to push their bodies to the limit and to ignore pain.  It looks like the Army is pulling the trigger and making a blanket ban on Vibram FiveFingers and other minimalist shoes in a policy released through BirthdayShoes.com today.  The new policy amends the current policy which states that Commanders “may authorize the wear of commercial running shoes,” as it goes on to say, “Commercial running shoes do not include minimalist shoes, lightweight track/road running flats, racing spikes, toe shoes, or shoes that simulate barefoot running.”  This is coming from the same organization that makes it’s soldiers run and walk 10s of miles in combat boots.  Oh well, there you have it, Army personal are now not authorized to wear minimalist running shoes during PT.

I believe because of the rapid growth in popularity of minimalist running the Army is making a rash decision without doing their research.  They even have a Marine study that was done 6 months ago which studied fitting recruits with motion control, stability, or support running shoes would have an effect on injuries.  The study assigned a control group, of 432 Men and 257 Women, with only stability running shoes.  They then formed an experimental group, of 408 Men and 314 Women, who were fitted with the correct running shoe based on plantar shape.  The study said the incidence of injury after the 12 weeks of basic training had no difference between the two groups.  If types of traditional running shoes don’t increase injuries, then why do they believe minimalist running shoes will?  I understand that soldiers are the military’s greatest assets, but banning something that may decrease injuries is absurd.  Maybe the military should start by developing an “Army issued” minimalist running shoe based on their doctors’ recommendations.  This would most likely increase the available fighting force while allowing soldiers to train as their body needs them too.  The Army ruined my knees, the least they can do is try to prevent that from happening to the rest of the Men and Women serving our county.  I guess for now, just like everything else in the military, you simply have to play the game, whether you agree or not.  Thank you all for your continued service.